The Supreme Court scheduled to hear on January 23 the petition of journalist Rana Ayyub challenging the summons issued to her by a special PMLA court in Ghaziabad in a money laundering case lodged against her by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), postponed the hearing to January 25.
According to the list of businesses uploaded on the apex court website, Ms. Ayyub’s petition was listed before a bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and J.B. Pardiwala.
The Bench cancelled the sitting today, and Ms. Ayyub’s advocate Vrinda Grover sought an urgent hearing today itself. Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud agreed to hear the petition on January 27, but when Ms. Grover said a summons was issued by the special court in Ghaziabad against Ms. Ayyub for January 27 and therefore the matter be listed urgently. The CJI then agreed to hear the petition on January 25.
Earlier on January 17, a Bench had agreed to consider listing the plea of the journalist for an urgent hearing after taking note of the submissions of Ms. Grover who appeared for Ms. Ayyub.
In her writ petition, Ms. Ayyub has sought quashing of the proceedings initiated by the ED in Ghaziabad citing lack of jurisdiction as the alleged offence of money laundering occurred in Mumbai.
The ED has filed a chargesheet against journalist Ms. Ayyub in connection with a case alleging that she illegally acquired funds in the name of charity.
The Ghaziabad Police registered the case in September 2021 with respect to the money raised through fundraiser campaigns via an online crowdfunding platform, Ketto. Various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Information Technology Act, and the Black Money Act were invoked. Based on the case, the ED initiated its money laundering probe.
It was also alleged that Ms. Ayyub, a journalist by profession, received overseas donations without registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation Act).
According to the ED, its probe revealed that Ms. Ayyub had launched three fundraiser campaigns on the Ketto platform starting from April 2020 and collected funds totalling to over ₹2.69 crore. The campaigns were to help raise funds for slum dwellers and farmers, relief work for Assam, Bihar, and Maharashtra, and assist to those impacted by COVID-19 in the country.
The agency has alleged that the funds raised on the online platforms were received in the accounts of her father and sister and subsequently transferred to her personal accounts. Ms. Ayyub allegedly used the funds to create a fixed-deposit of ₹50 lakh for herself and also transferred ₹50 lakh in a new bank account.
Only about ₹29 lakh was used for relief work, said the ED, alleging that in order to claim more expenses towards relief work, fake bills were submitted by Ms. Ayyub.
Bank balances in the accounts amounting to over ₹1.77 crore — including the fixed-deposit — were attached by the ED on February 4.
“ED investigation has established that Ms. Rana Ayyub had launched the aforesaid campaigns with the sole intention to cheat the general public and acquired proceeds of crime in the form of FD (fixed-deposit) and balances in bank accounts projecting them as untainted,” said the agency.
Ms. Ayyub had earlier issued a statement terming the allegations in the media baseless, mala fide, and fanciful. Giving a detailed account of the funds and expenditures, she said that she had provided bills/invoices for relief work worth ₹40 lakh.
She donated ₹74.50 lakh to the CM CARES Fund of Maharashtra and the PM CARES Fund. Over ₹1.14 crore was used for relief work and ₹1.05 crore was collected as tax by the Income Tax Department, and the rest of the money was in the form of the fixed deposit in her account, which had been created for setting up a hospital, said her statement.