Sushant Singh Rajput case: HC strikes down LOCs issued against actor Rhea Chakraborty and her family | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Sushant Singh Rajput case: HC strikes down LOCs issued against actor Rhea Chakraborty and her family

By, Mumbai
Feb 23, 2024 08:04 AM IST

“An LOC cannot be issued as a matter of course, but only when there is/are reason/(s) to issue it i.e. when a person deliberately evades arrest or does not appear before the trial court or for any other reason,” said a division bench of justice Revati Mohite Dere and justice Manjusha Deshpande and added once issued, an LOC cannot be kept pending indefinitely

The right to travel is a fundamental right and cannot be curtailed except according to the due procedure established by law, the Bombay high court on Thursday said and struck down the look-out circulars (LOCs) issued against actor Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and their parents.

The family came to know about the LOCs in September 2023 when Rhea Chakraborty tried to travel abroad and was stopped at the airport. (HT Archives)
The family came to know about the LOCs in September 2023 when Rhea Chakraborty tried to travel abroad and was stopped at the airport. (HT Archives)

“An LOC cannot be issued as a matter of course, but only when there is/are reason/(s) to issue it i.e. when a person deliberately evades arrest or does not appear before the trial court or for any other reason,” said a division bench of justice Revati Mohite Dere and justice Manjusha Deshpande and added once issued, an LOC cannot be kept pending indefinitely.

The court was hearing separate petitions filed by the 32-year-old actor, her brother Showik, 28, and her parents - Lt. Colonel Indrajit Chakraborty, 58, and Sandhya Chakraborty, 58. They have challenged the LOCs issued in August 2020 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating a case registered against them in Patna – around a month-and-half after actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide at his Bandra residence on June 14, 2020.

The Rajeev Nagar police station in Patna had on July 25, 2020, registered an FIR against the actor, her family and others under section 341 (wrongful confinement), 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 306 (abetment of suicide), and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code following a complaint lodged by Krishna Kishore Singh, father of the deceased actor.

On August 6, 2020, the CBI took over the probe after Rhea approached the Supreme Court for transfer of the case from the Patna police to their Mumbai counterparts A few days later, the central agency issued the LOCs against the actor, her brother and their parents.

The family, however, came to know about the LOCs in September 2023 when Rhea tried to travel abroad and was stopped at the airport. Thereafter the actor and her family approached the high court, questioning the continuation of the LOCs for a long period.

Opposing their petitions, the CBI contended that the probe is still on, and the petitioners can always approach the high court and seek permission whenever they wish to travel abroad.

The court, however, accepted the argument put forward by Abhinav Chandrachud and Ayaz Khan on behalf of the actor and her family members. The lawyers said three-and-a-half-years have already passed since the CBI took over the probe and continuation of the LOCs for such a long period is an infringement of their fundamental right and liberty to travel freely, guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution, especially when they have cooperated with the investigators.

Besides, the court found that the CBI had not specified the reasons for issuance of the LOCs against the Chakrabortys and did not bother to review them as required under the guidelines laid down by the central government.

“Having perused the four LOCs issued against the petitioners by the CBI, we find that in neither of the four LOCs any satisfaction is recorded vis-a-vis any apprehension or any other reason, for their issuance,” the bench said. “We find there is absolutely no reason disclosed for opening of the LOCs, except mentioning the registration of an FIR and giving the gist of the FIR.”

The court added that an LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender and as such interferes with the person’s right to personal liberty and free movement and curtails their fundamental right to travel, guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution.

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