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SC Permits Foreign Travel for Raghav Bahl & Ritu Kapur, Extends Protection Order

The court has allowed Bahl and Kapur to travel to London for a medical appointment inspite of an LOC.

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The Supreme Court on Friday, 11 March, extended its interim order restraining coercive steps against The Quint's founder Raghav Bahl, and permitted Bahl and his co-founder and spouse Ritu Kapur to travel abroad for a medical appointment.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant noted that even though a look out circular had been issued against them in connection with the Enforcement Directorate's money laundering case against Bahl, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had informed the court that there were no objections to their travel.

The court has allowed the two of them to travel to London for a medical appointment, directing them to furnish an undertaking that they will return to India within a period of two weeks from the date of departure.

The central government's agencies have been directed to ensure that they take steps to communicate the directions particularly regarding the LOC to facilitate their travel.

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The apex court will take the case up next on 11 May, till when the no coercive steps order shall remain in force.

The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal by Bahl, against the Delhi High Court's refusal to grant him interim protection while hearing his petition for quashing of the money laundering case against him.

The high court continues to be seized of the quashing case, and has directed the ED to respond to Bahl's contentions that the case does not have any merits since he has filed all necessary returns and made all relevant disclosures to the Income Tax department – which he submits has also cleared these filings.

The case which was filed against Raghav Bahl in 2019, stems from a charge sheet filed by the Income Tax department for alleged non-disclosure of funds amounting to approximately Rs 2.45 crore used for buying a property in London.

The ED had initiated proceedings against Bahl based on a complaint by the Income Tax department of alleged irregularities in his returns filed for the assessment year 2018-19.

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Raghav Bahl Repeatedly Denies Charges, Writes to FM, Voluntarily Discloses Investments

Raghav Bahl, however, has repeatedly denied the charges against him. In the Delhi High Court, his counsel Mukul Rohatgi had reiterated as well that the money laundering proceedings against Bahl cannot be allowed to go on as the authorities have cleared Bahl’s tax returns for assessment year 2018-19 after he refiled it.

In a letter to the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman written in 2019, Bahl had stated that he is “getting the sense of being hounded for doing no wrong despite paying all taxes honestly and diligently”. He had also voluntarily disclosed complete investments in the London property.

“It is my hope that by voluntarily disclosing the information below, I can facilitate the inquiries of the ministry and its departments and provide them with an opportunity to correct the mistakes and errors committed by them thus far,” Bahl had written in his letter to the FM.

“The disclosures below should remove any iota of doubt and demolish even the remotest pretence to continue with any probe or investigation as, along with the material information provided earlier, they clearly establish that every penny (quite literally) invested to buy the property in London which has become the subject of investigation, has been paid through the incomes of myself and my immediate family members.”
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Raids on Bahl’s Residence & The Quint’s Office

Income Tax Officers had in October 2018, entered the offices of The Quint in Noida. According to the I-T officer leading the team, they were conducting a “search” on one floor of the office, and a “survey” on the other.

I-T officers were also present at the residence of Bahl and Kapur, and the office of Quintype (another company within the same corporate group), and also conducted a survey at The News Minute (which the Quintillion Media holds a stake in) in Bengaluru.

The search at the Noida premises ended almost 22 hours later in the wee hours of the the next morning, and the raids were condemned by The Editors Guild of India, journalists and politicians alike, as indicative of an “undeclared emergency”.

(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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