The Delhi High Court has directed a lower court to decide “as expeditiously as possible” on a plea of Li Xiongwei, chief executive officer of Huawei Telecommunications (India), seeking quashing of a look-out circular issued against him by the income-tax department.
A look-out circular, or LOC, prevents a person from travelling abroad. Authorities use it to prevent people accused in criminal cases from fleeing the country.
The trial court “shall consider the application for cancellation of the look-out circular as well as for permission to travel abroad in accordance with law”, the HC held while granting Li the liberty to approach the trial court. “In the event such an application is filed before the trial court within a week, the same shall be disposed of as expeditiously as possible, preferably within four weeks,” it said in a ruling passed earlier this week.
Li’s plea was disposed of after his counsel advocate Vijay Aggarwal informed the HC that Li would approach the trial court for cancellation of the look-out circular as well as permission to travel abroad. The HC clarified that it has “not commented on the merits of the controversy” and that “the rights and contentions of all the parties are left open”.
Li, a Chinese national, was stopped at New Delhi airport on May 1 and not allowed to board a flight to Bangkok to attend a meeting on behalf of Huawei Telecommunications (India). His boarding pass was cancelled and was not returned to him. He had petitioned the Delhi HC challenging the LOC. Li termed the IT department’s action as a “huge blow” to his reputation “as well as to the reputation of Huawei India”.
The income-tax department told the HC that an LOC was issued against Li “because his conduct during the course of the search demonstrated that he was a flight risk”. The department alleged that his conduct had also demonstrated that “he did not wish to cooperate with the investigation”.
In February, a search operation was carried out by I-T sleuths at several premises linked to Huawei in India.
The department’s affidavit alleged the CEO deliberately tried “to deny access to the books of accounts, emails or key individuals of the company”. It also alleged that Li “consistently denied and delayed the proceedings at hand (search), even to the point of not providing access to the emails of the CFO who remains outside of India”. Huawei has denied accusations of non-cooperation. Fhsts