What is LOC or Look Out Circular?
Look out circular (LOC) has no perfect legal definition. It is more of a medium by which authorities worldwide issue different kind of circular letter to check whether a travelling person is wanted by any law enforcement agency in the country. World over such circulars are known with different nomenclature. It is used at immigration checks at international borders (including International airports or sea ports). It is a worldwide practise, through which the law enforcement agencies stop wanted persons from leaving the country or catch them while they are returning to the country.
In India, LOC is a circular containing the identification parameters of criminals like name, father’s name, date of birth, passport no etc and thus it helps law enforcement authorities to catch absconding criminals/ accused and stopping them from crossing borders. It’s origin is based in Ministry of Home Affairs’ Circular No. 15022/13/78-F.1 dated 5th September, 1979, either to monitor the arrival/ departure of foreigners and Indians or to restrict arrival/departure of foreigners or Indians. It was further updated and latest circular is Circular No. 25016/31/2010-Imm dated 27th October, 2010
The purpose of LOC is solely to track/ detain the wanted person and hand them over to appropriate agency. Normally LOC once opened is in force for One Year and the investigative agency/ Originator has to send a fresh request for its renewal. Nodal agency also informs investigative agency/ Originator about all LOC which are lapsing beforehand so as to enable them to inform whether to renew it or not.
Why LOC is issued?
The reason for LOC is simple:
• Not to allow criminals/ accused to leave the country
• Not to allow criminals/ accused to enter the country with being aware
• To Trace the absconding criminals/ accused
Who can issue LOC?
LOC can be initiated in 2 different ways
• Police Officials – Any Police Officer over and above the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) in States or Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in Commissionaire areas can send a request for opening of LOC.
• Court – Any Magistrate of First Class, where the Criminal case Trial is pending before his court can order for opening of LOC.
Both the requests are sent to the Home Department of State which in turn requests the Nodal Officer at Bureau of Immigration (BoI) to open an LOC. BoI in turn makes the Circular with all available identification parameters, which are not less than 3, and sends it all immigration ports in India.
What can happen if LOC is issued against a person?
Issuance of LOC can impact different persons differently. It curtails person’s ability to travel in and out of Country. In the line of work of 498A, I have seen people have faced following problems because of LOC.
• Arrest/ Detention at the Airport
• Job Loss/ Career Loss for not able to report to work in time
• Public Humiliation /Embarrassment
• Monetary Loss, as it results in no-show when you have your ticket booked
How can you find out if there was LOC or not?
LOC is highly confidential document unless the case is high profile, whether the LOC is issued or not is not known to public at large. Information on whether LOC is opened or not is also not available under RTI. Most people against whom LOC is issued, come to know about this fact is when they are detained at the immigration port while crossing or NRIs guess about the same as they know of an FIR against them.
Still one can try to get the information from following sources.
• Police Station where the FIR is lodged.
• District SP/ DCP Office or similar rank officer in any investigative agency.
• Immigration Authorities
• FRRO Office (In case of NRI)
• Trial Court records, if court have initiated the issuance of LOC.
Is LOC issued for NRIs only?
This is the biggest misconception. LOC can be issued against anybody whom the authorities think can abscond from India. This can also happen despite the accused is enlarged on bail. Issuance of LOC has not been considered as any infringement on Fundamental Rights by courts. And I speak specifically about people facing 498A, I have personally known men who were Resident Indians and admitted on bail, but could not travel abroad for business of leisure because LOC was opened against them.
How to get LOC removed once it’s issued?
Though both Investigating Agency and Courts have power to cancel/ Suspend LOC permanently or for short duration, the route through Investigating Agency/ Police is winding and often a lot of bribe is accosted for the same.
The better way to deal with this is to approach the trial court for cancelling/ suspension of LOC. Normally for non-henious crimes and when the accused was not arrested pursuant to issuance of LOC, the courts have been lenient enough to recall it completely/ suspend the same for limited duration. Even if a person was arrested pursuant to issuance of LOC and does not face trial for a heinous crime, the trial court or higher courts generally cancel/ suspend LOC by asking the person to give higher surety.
However, in cases of Foreign Citizens or people accused of heinous crimes, the courts may not be so lenient.
Is getting court order of removal of LOC enough?
No, it is not. Though we all have a feeling that the court orders would be followed by investigative agencies promptly, they can still stall it for long, citing lack of certified copy of the orders etc.
If you have got your LOC removed by court order, it would be better that you yourself apply for multiple certified copies of the same and provide the same with covering letter to Investigating Officer, SP/ DCP concerned and send a copy to the nodal officer at:
Bureau of Immigration (BoI)
East Block – VIII
R K Puram, New Delhi – 110066
And you should confirm that the same is removed/ suspended before travelling abroad and even then reach at least four hours prior in advance to the airport/ seaport before travel. In case you are facing some problems in getting LOC removed, I suggest you to contact me in person for seeking advice on these matters.
Can I travel with Certified copy of LOC Removal Order of Court?
Unfortunately no. One would argue that it should be the case, but there have been instances where the court orders have been faked. So the immigration officer would invariably contact the originator and only on confirmation, let you travel even if you are having LOC Removal Court Order.
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