Upholding a single judge order, the Madras High Court today revoked the ‘look out circular’ issued against a Dubai-based NRI against whom Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) cases have been registered by the Enforcement Directorate.
A division bench, comprising Justice Nooty. Ramamohana Rao and Justice S M Subramaiam, also directed the Union Home Ministry to return the passport of Cheruvathur Chakkutty Thampi alias C C Thampi of Pazhanji in Thrissur district of Kerala against whom the cases are pending.
On January 24, Justice B Rajendran had allowed his plea and quashed ED’s orders impounding Thampi’s passport. The judge directed ED to handover the passport to Thampi after withdrawing the look out circular.
ED had filed an appeal against the single judge order.
Ordering release of the passport, the bench today directed withdrawing of circular latest by 12 noon of February 11.
According to the ED, Thampi’s company — Holiday City Centre Pvt Ltd — was acquiring huge tracts of agriculture lands, and the only source of fund was loan from its NRI director Thampi.
The ED said as on March 31, 2013, the loan amount provided by Thampi was Rs 40.87 crore which was subsequently converted as Thampi’s equity investment resulting in transfer of 99 per cent shareholding of the company to him,following which FEMA proceedings were initiated against him.
On the basis of the circular issued against Thampi, immigration officials detained him on December 22 last year at Chennai airport. After recording his statements, the ED registered a case under FEMA.
He was also directed by the ED to submit details of all assets owned by him and his companies in India and abroad and details of bank accounts and properties in his name and his wife’s name within 10 days. His passport issued from Dubai on November 26, 2015, was impounded for 90 days.
When his appearance before the ED was adjourned to January 16, he moved the court seeking suspension of the circular besides seeking permission to allow his counsel and auditor during questioning and also seeking release of the passport.
The bench, in its order, said “the Visa held by Thampi in UAE would expire by 18.02.2017 and hence for seeking its extension/renewal, his presence is needed and for him to undertake the travel, the passport which is impounded is required to be returned.”
The bench said it was prima facie satisfied that Thampi was appearing before the ED whenever summoned, except on a couple of occasions because of the serious ailment of a close family member who ultimately died.
“Therefore we direct authorities to return passport which is impounded latest before 12 noon of 11.02.2017 to enable him to move out of this country by using the said passport.”
“However he shall furnish an undertaking before the ED provided that he is at least given a minimum of three weeks duration prior to the notice, so that he can organise his affairs and also his trip and also furnish an undertaking before the Registrar Judicial of the High Court that he would abide the requirements to attend whenever he is called upon to do so by ED…,” the bench said.