CBI moves Delhi HC seeking custodial interrogation of lobbyist Deepak Talwar

The CBI on Tuesday approached the Delhi High Court seeking custodial interrogation of lobbyist Deepak Talwar in a case related to alleged violation of foreign funding law, FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act).

A bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Anu Malhotra sought response of NGO Advantages India Private Ltd, with which Talwar was earlier associated as its president, and its secretary Manish Garg on the CBI’s application.

Talwar was deported from Dubai on January 30 and was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case. He is presently lodged in judicial custody. The CBI contended in the court that the NGO had received foreign contribution of Rs 90.72 crore during the financial years 2012 to 2013 and 2015 to 2016.

The CBI’s counsel Rajdipa Behura told the court that Talwar’s custodial interrogation was required to unearth the conspiracy and to ascertain the actual beneficiary of the funds received by the NGO.

The CBI said the investigation had revealed that the foreign contribution received by the NGO was “misused” and diverted for some other purpose. The court has listed the matter for further hearing on February 27.

ED seeks extension of custody of corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar by 7 days

The Enforcement Directorate Thursday sought from a Delhi court extension of custody for corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar by seven days in a money laundering case.

The court had earlier allowed ED to quiz in custody for seven days Talwar, after the probe agency alleged that he acted as middleman in negotiations to favour foreign private airlines causing the loss to national carrier Air India.

ED had told the court that by interrogating Talwar it has to find out the names of officials of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, National Aviation Company of India Ltd and Air India, who favoured foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Air Arabia, by making national carrier, gave up profit making routes and profit making timings.

Talwar, who is in ED custody, was deported from Dubai on January 30 and was arrested by the agency after landing here.

No coercive action against Deepak Talwar in FCRA case: HC

The Delhi High Court has asked the CBI not to take any coercive action against corporate lobbyist Deepak Talwar and his NGO in a criminal case lodged against them over alleged violation of foreign funding laws.

A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta, however, made it clear that this protection would be available only if they continue to cooperate with the CBI investigation.

“Having heard the counsel on behalf of the parties, this court is of the view that subject to petitioners continuing to cooperate in the investigations by the CBI, no coercive action should be taken till further orders,” the bench said.

The high court’s order came on a plea by Talwar and his NGO, Advantage India, who have sought quashing of the CBI’s FIR lodged against them for criminal conspiracy, forgery and under various sections of the FCRA for allegedly diverting Rs 90.72 crore worth of foreign funds meant for ambulances and other articles received by his NGO from Europe’s leading missile manufacturing company.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) wing of the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 3 initiated proceedings against Talwar, his NGO and others after cancelling the voluntary body’s licence.

The ministry subsequently sent the matter to the CBI, which on November 16 initiated criminal proceedings by registering an FIR against Talwar and five others.

The bench, however, observed that the provisions of FCRA, used by the ministry and CBI to initiate the proceedings against the lobbyist and his NGO, could not have been invoked together.

“Prima facie, it appears to the court that section 43 of FCRA, which seeks to override only the provisions of the CrPC that may be contrary thereto, is subject to section 40 FCRA.

Also, given the scheme of the FCRA, two parallel criminal proceedings, one under section 40 FCRA and other under section 43 FCRA appears inconceivable and legislatively unintended,” the bench noted.

It observed the apart from the fact that the offences under the FCRA are expressly stated to be noncognisable, section 40 of FCRA is categorical that “no court shall take cognisance of any offence under this Act, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government or any officer authorised by that Government in this behalf”.

“Section 43 of FCRA appears to permit an investigation by an officer as may be authorised by the Central Government into the very same offences under the FCRA by granting such authority the powers that a police officer may have while investigating a cognisable offence.

“In the present case, without resorting to the route contemplated under Section 40 of FCRA, the Central Government appears to have invoked Section 43 of FCRA to get the CBI to straightaway register an FIR not limited to offences under the FCRA, but also IPC offences that are cognisable,” it noted.

The bench also issued notice to the Centre and the CBI on the plea and sought their replies within four weeks.

The court fixed the matter for further hearing on March 13 next year.