Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court has quashed a 2018 Enforcement Directorate order of freezing the bank accounts of Amnesty International India Private Limited.
The petition filed by Amnesty International in 2018 was allowed and the notices quashed, the single-judge bench of Justice K S Hemalekha said in its February 24 order. The copy of the judgment was made available recently.
In the judgment, the court said: “On perusal of the provisions of Section 132(8A) of the Act, it is evident that order under Sub-Section (3) of Section 132 of the Income Tax Act would not be in force beyond sixty days from the date of the order. In light of the provisions of Section 132(8A), the impugned notices dated 25.10.2018 have lost their efficacy by efflux of time as the period of sixty days has expired.”
The court, however, said all the contentions are left open to be urged before the appropriate authority in accordance with law.
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Calling itself a company “engaged in the business of rendering, research (primary and secondary) and consultancy services regarding human rights”, Amnesty claimed in the petition before the High Court that on October 25, 2018, without any notice to it, a search and seizure was conducted on its premises. Several documents, agreements and mobile phones were scrutinised and confiscated.
Following this, the bank accounts of Amnesty in HDFC Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank were frozen by a Government Order without any notice to it. This was challenged in the petition before the High Court.
The advocate for Amnesty pointed to the Greenpeace India Society vs Union of India case in which a similar issue was decided. The High Court accepted this contention.
In the Greenpeace case, the NGO sought to quash the order blocking its financial assets which had been frozen by an order of the Ministry of Home Affairs following a bank transfer from another NGO located in Netherlands. The High Court held that the Ministry’s arguments were not satisfactory enough to freeze the financial assets of Greenpeace and ordered that the bank allow the NGO to have access to its accounts.