What is a look out notice?

Source: By Mahender Singh Manral: The Indian Express

Delhi High Court on 1 April 2022 sought the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED’s) response on journalist Rana Ayyub’s challenge to its action of restraining her from leaving the country. Ayyub was stopped in Mumbai based on a look out circular (LOC) issued by the ED, which is investigating her in a case of alleged money laundering.

What is it, when is it issued?

An LOC is issued to make sure that an individual who is absconding or wanted by law enforcement agencies is not able to leave the country. It is mostly used at immigration checkpoints at international airports and seaports by the immigration branch.

In certain cases, the police can approach a court asking for the restriction of a person’s movement outside the country, when that person is a suspect and there is an apprehension that they may not join the investigation at a later stage. The subject of an LOC can challenge the circular and get relief from a court.

Who can issue an LOC?

An LOC can be initiated by a large number of authorised officers, including an officer not below the rank of deputy secretary, an officer not below the rank of joint secretary in the state government, a district magistrate or superintendent of police, designated officers of various law enforcing and security agencies, a designated officer of Interpol, an officer not below the rank of additional director in the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

In 2018, the government also empowered the heads of public sector banks to directly request the authorities to issue an LOC against wilful defaulters to prevent them from leaving the country. So now, an officer not below the rank of chairman/managing director/chief executive of any public sector bank can make a request.

An LOC can be modified/deleted/withdrawn by the Bureau of Immigration only on the specific request of the authorised originator on whose request the LOC was issued.

Does an LOC lead to arrest?

Not necessarily. LOCs can be of several types. They can seek to merely stop a person against whom the circular has been issued from travelling outside the country, to prevent a person from entering the country, or inform the concerned investigation agencies. The proforma of the LOC also contains a request to detain the individual at the local police/investigation agency, which generally leads to arrest.