The Supreme Court today declined to grant any protection or interim relief on the plea filed by journalist Rana Ayyub challenging the summons issued to her by a special PMLA court in Ghaziabad in a money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

"We are not granting interim relief. We will request the Special Court to postpone the hearing", said a Bench comprising Justice Krishna Murari and Justice V Ramasubramanian.

"List on January 31, 2023. In the meantime, we request the Special Court to adjourn the hearing fixed for January 27 to a date after Jan 31, 2023. This Order is being issued because of paucity of time and not a reflection on the merits of the case", the Court clarified.

A detailed hearing of the matter could not take place owing to personal difficulty of the Bench.

"I am sorry to cause inconvenience Milord. This involves a short question of law. I am challenging the jurisdiction of this case by PMLA Court in Uttar Pradesh. No part of offence has occurred there", submitted Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing on behalf of the Ayyub.

"How a writ under Article 32 lies here? The jurisdictional High Court can look into it. Is the High Court so powerless to do it?, asked the Bench to the Senior Advocate.

"Complaint can only be filed in jurisdictional High court. My liberty is at stake. I am seeking some protection. I have never been arrested. Can ED be allowed to drag me to any court in the country, especially where my safety would be jeopardized. I am all seeking is, give me 4-6 weeks protection. It will take that long for Allahabad High Court to hear this", further said the Senior Advocate.

"The complaint has not been placed on record. Crowdfunding is the new method to collect money. I will explain this, Milord ! Milord, can have it on 27th" interjected Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. "File anticipatory bail. Every litigation is equal in eyes of law. She is aspersion on the entire investigation", added SG Mehta.

Earlier, a bench led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud posted the matter for urgent hearing on January 25, 2023, after Senior Advocate Vrinda Grover mentioned it.

In her writ petition, Ayyub has sought quashing of the proceedings initiated by the Enforcement Directorate in Ghaziabad citing lack of jurisdiction as the alleged offence of money laundering occurred in Mumbai.

The ED had filed a charge sheet against Ayyub, accusing her of cheating the public and using Rs 2.69 crore she got in charity for creating personal assets, and also violating the foreign contribution law.

Ayyub's crime allegedly involves taking money illegally from the general public in the name of charity via 'Ketto' (an online crowdfunding platform) in three campaigns without any approval, raising a huge sum in the bank account of her sister and father, and transferring it into her own bank account which was not used for the intended purpose.

The campaigns, ED had said, were meant to raise funds for slum dwellers and farmers, relief work for Assam, Bihar, and Maharashtra, and help Ayyub and her team help those impacted by COVID-19 in India. "Ayyub utilised these funds to create a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh for herself and also transferred Rs 50 lakh to a new bank account. Investigations found that only about Rs 29 lakh was used for relief work," as per the ED’s claim.

On November 29 last year, the special PMLA court in Ghaziabad had taken cognizance of the prosecution complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate and summoned Ayyub. The ED filed chargesheet under section 45 read with section 44 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 for money laundering.

"I have perused the above mentioned prosecution complaint and have also gone through the prosecution papers as well as documents including statements. From the perusal of the entire record there is sufficient evidence as to a prima facie case for taking cognizance against Ms Rana Ayyub with regard to commission of offence," the special court judge said while summons was issued for January 27.

The ED had initiated money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered on September 7, 2021 by the Indirapuram Police Station of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh under various sections of the IPC, Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, and Black Money Act against Ayyub.