The Karnataka High Court said that the right to associate with family, friends, and relatives, especially when one is at an advanced stage of life, need to be recognised as a facet of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court was deciding a writ petition filed by an Indian citizen against the Look-out Circulars (LoC) that had restrained him for four years from travelling back to United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A Single Bench of Justice Krishna S. Dixit observed, “What one has to appreciate is: Petitioner is not shown to be a fugitive offender; the Banks have not instituted any criminal case in India or outside against him till date although they have obtained decrees/orders for recovering the outstanding loans. Petitioner, who is in the late evening of his life (78-year-old), has been retained in India since more than three & half years. His family comprising of wife & daughter is abroad; right to associate with the family, friends & relatives, especially when one is at an advanced stage of life, needs to be recognized as a facet of personal liberty constitutionally guaranteed under Article 21, which has been expanding, precedent by precedent.”

The Bench added that the accused has assured that he would come back to India whenever his presence is ordered in any legal proceedings.

Senior Advocate B.V. Acharya appeared on behalf of the petitioner while DSGI H Shanthi Bhushan appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Brief Facts -

The aforesaid LoCs were challenged on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, absence of jurisdictional facts, violation of Fundamental Rights, abuse of power, breach of principles of natural justice, non-application of mind, and arbitrariness. The respondent-Banks had secured a Mareva Injunction Order and orders/decrees and had not filed any criminal case against the petitioner accused, in India or abroad. His presence in UAE was eminently required for fighting the legal battles there.

He was in the late evening of life and needed to be the company of his family and hence it was contended that his travel to UAE cannot be restrained for an indefinite period. He was ready and willing to come back, if so directed. Whereas, the respondents argued that his petition was not maintainable as he was a chronic defaulter of huge loans without exhausting alternate remedy. It was also contended that his presence was required in India to prevent loan recovery proceedings being rendered futile.

The High Court in view of the above facts observed, “The first contention as to non-compliance of court order, is not acceptable since Petitioner has already filed the affidavit disclosing his assets & liabilities and also the civil & criminal cases launched against him outside India. If any specific property is left out or any case remains undisclosed, it is for the Banks to point out the same which they have not done.”

The Court further said that it is open to the Banks to put all the Court decrees/orders including Mareva Injunction Orders in global circulation so that any attempt to alienate or encumber any property or any interest therein from the side of the petitioner, would prove abortive.

“He should also undertake in this regard by filing an affidavit so that his presence can be secured by this Court too on an application being moved even after the disposal of Writ Petition. In the fact matrix of the case the subject LoCs cannot operate for an indefinite period of time, merely because the time limitation of one year has been done away with”, it also said.

The Court, therefore, concluded that no case is made out as to abuse of the process of court or as to culpable conduct of the petitioner, so as to deny him justice.

Accordingly, the High Court kept the LoCs in suspended animation and issued a writ of mandamus to the respondents to permit the petitioner to travel to UAE.

Cause Title- Dr. Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty v. Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs & Ors.


Petitioner: Senior Advocates B.V. Acharya, Prabhuling K Navadgi, and Advocate Keerthi Reddy.

Respondents: DSGI H Shanthi Bhushan, CGC Aditya Singh, Senior Advocate D.R. Ravishankar, Advocates B Prasanna Kumar, Manu P. Kulkarni, Dharmendra Chatur., Manoj J Raikar, and Ishi Prakash.

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