Look Out Circular

On 16 May, 2019

Look Out Circular (LOC) is defined as a 'coercive measure' to make a person surrender to the investigating agency or Court of law. The next step would be impounding the passport of the accused (i.e. when chargesheeted or a trial is pending). 

Look Out Circular

The following actions can be expected from Immigration Checkpoint :-

  • Inform originator of arrival/departure of subject (no other action to be taken)

  • Seize travel document and sent to originator

  • Prevent subject from entering and inform originator

  • Detain & handover intercepted person to local police and inform orignator


Recourse to LOC can be taken by the investigating agency like MEA, Income Tax Deptts, Revenue Intelligenc, CBI, Interpol, RPO & Police authorities, etc. in cognizable offences under Indian Penal Code (e.g. Section 498A, etc.) or other penal laws where despite non bailable warrants (NBWs) and other coercive measures provided under such laws the accused was deliberately evading the arrest or not appearing in the trial court and there was likelihood of the accused leaving the country to evade trial/arrest. {See W.P. (Crl.) No. 1315/2008, Delhi High Court.}


Interestingly, it has been experienced that when the investigating officer issues the LOC mechanically such an action leads to multiplicity of litigation in cases when either of the parties are already living outside the country despite having the intent to make an amicable & reasonable settlement. Therefore, request of opening of LOC must invariably be issued with the approval (i.e. under his signature on the PROFORMA) of 'designated officer' (known as originator) namely Suptd. of Police (SP) of the Distt. concerned, or as per the directions of the Criminal Court only. {Official Memorandum dt 27.12.2000 of Ministry of Home Affairs specifies the steps for opening of LOC}


There is no reason to blame immigration authorities if they don't understand you bonafide, since the legal liability of the action taken in pursuance to the LOC rests with the originating agency.


Now the most important question, How to get LOC cancelled/ avoid the affect of LOC?


Upon an application by the person concerned (e.g. complainant in private complaint)

  • LOC can be withdrawn by the originator, or

  • LOC can be rescinded by the trial court where case is pending, or

  • LOC can be directed to be withdrawn by the HC/SC having jurisdiction


The person against whom LOC is issued must join the investigation by appearing before I.O. or should surrender before the court concerned or should satisfy the court that LOC was wrongly issued against him, the subordinate courts' jurisdiction in affirming or cancelling the LOC is commensurate with the jurisdiction of cancellation of NBW or affirming NBW. It ceases to exist once a person is granted the bail. The person against whom look out circular has been issued is obviously not entitled to seek the relief of anticipatory bail u/s 438 of IPC.


Resultingly, if the I.O. or the Court is satisfied that the person is cooperating in the investigation/producing the documents required LOC can be cancelled or modified. {Interesting story: https://www.oneindia.com/india/the-case-of-a-mysterious-look-out-circular-and-how-vijay-mallya-fled-india-for-london-2775113.html}


Alternatively, protection from arrest, etc. coercive steps can be obtained under the extra ordinary jurisdiction of High Court/Supreme Court and then the travel can freely be made upon the satisfaction of such court.