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Mallya Lookout Circular: CBI Goof-Up or Cover-Up?

CBI red-faced on Mallya Lookout Circular row, says LOC seeking detention of Mallya was an error made by the agency.

Updated
India
3 min read
Vijay Mallya with Kingfisher Calendar girls. (Photo Courtesy: <i>Indian Express</i> Archive)

On Friday, in a two-hour long briefing to the media on Vijay Mallya’s Lookout Circular (LOC), the CBI repeated two words: “inadvertent error”. The red-faced CBI admitted that the notice seeking the detention of the liquor baron issued to the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) on October 16, 2015 was a mistake committed by a junior CBI official.

During the briefing, the CBI spokesperson claimed that Mallya could not be found in the searches on October 10. Without wasting any more time, the CBI wrote to the BOI on October 12 that a Lookout Circular must be issued to ensure Mallya’s ‘availability for questioning’ in connection with the Rs 900 crore loan default case with IDBI Bank.

Read: Mallya Look-Out Circular: Many Disparities in the CBI’s Actions

There are five columns in LOC perfoma. The column related to seeking the detention of Mallya was wrongly ticked instead of the column seeking information or intimation.
Devpreet Singh, Spokesperson, CBI

The agency claimed that a detention under the Lookout Circular was possible only on the strength of a non-bailable warrant against an accused, which was not the case with Mallya.

When asked about the action or inquiry against the said junior official, who erred in issuing the LOC, the CBI spokesperson did not give a clear answer. According to sources, the CBI Director called for all the files related to the case and has also set a discreet inquiry into the matter.

The CBI manual says, however;

Request for Lookout Notices should be sent only after obtaining approval of the Joint Director concerned. The necessity for continuing the Lookout Notice should be reviewed every six months.
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Why Did CBI Tone Down the Lookout Circular?

(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)

Although the CBI’s explanation on the revision of the LOC is hard to believe, here is their version of the story. On November 23, CBI’s Mumbai office was informed by the BOI about the ‘imminent arrival’ of Mallya from London on November 24 and wanted instructions on what needed to be done.

It was after the call from BOI that the CBI realised its mistake and a ‘correction’ was necessitated, which was to revise the LOC from detention to intimation. The CBI acted promptly and made the necessary changes in LOC on the same day.

The question we are left with, however, is whether the LOC was changed immediately to save Mallya from the embarrassment of detention or as a procedure.

The agency told BOI not to detain Mallya and to simply provide information on his whereabouts and movements.

Mallya arrived in India on a day after the LOC was revised and appeared for questioning before the CBI on December 9, 10 and 11.

After opening the Lookout Circular, Mallya travelled abroad at least, three times before his departure on March 2.

The CBI had registered a case against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines, Chief Financial Officer of the airlines A Raghunathan and unknown officials of IDBI Bank – alleging that Rs 900 crore IDBI loan was sanctioned in violation of norms regarding credit limits – on the basis of a complaint received from the bank.

The CBI’s briefing to the media has raised more questions than clarifications.

Did the CBI make an error in issuing the first LOC or is it now making error by sticking to a revised and toned down LOC?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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