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The Delhi High Court has held that Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act, 1967 cannot be used to deny passport facilities to an Indian Citizen if he has obtained the necessary permission from the court before which criminal proceedings are pending against him.
The judgment was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru in a petition arising out of the denial of passport facilities to the petitionerRajiv Chaturvedi by a Regional Passport Office.
Section 6(2)(f) empowers the passport authority to refuse issuance of a passport or travel document to a person against whom proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by him are pending before a criminal court in India.
The facilities were denied to the petitioner on the ground that he had been charged with offences under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and was facing trial.
The petitioner had also assailed two Office Memoranda issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension, and PEC Limited which denied the petitioner’s request for issuance of a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) for the renewal of his passport.
The Court noted that although Section 6(2)(f) of the Act empowered the passport authority to refuse passport facilities to certain persons or class of persons, Section 22 of the Act empowered the Central Government to exempt any person or class of persons from the operation of all or any of the provisions of this Act or its rules.
In exercise of such powers under Section 22(a) of the Act, the Central Government had issued a notification on August 25, 1993, the Court observed.
It further iterated that as per the notification, the Central Government had provided for the issuance of passport to citizens of India against whom criminal proceedings are pending before a criminal court in India if they were able to produce orders from the concerned court permitting them to depart from India.
In view of the notification, the Court recorded, the petitioner had even applied to the concerned court. Accordingly, the Special CBI Judge at the City Civil & Sessions Court, Greater Bombay had granted the petitioner the requisite permission for the renewal of his passport.
Referring to Sections 6(2)(f) and 10 of the Act, counsel appearing for PEC Ltd argued that the CBI Court’s permission to procure a passport was conditional and permitted the issuance of a passport only if it is otherwise permissible as per the relevant passport rules.
The Court, however, rejected the counsel’s reliance on Section 10 of the Act. It stated that since Section 10 pertained only to impounding and revocation of passports and travel documents, any reliance on it in the present case was ex facie misplaced.
It noted that the relevant provision for the present case was Section 6(2)(f). However, the rigours of that provision have been relaxed by the 1993 notification, the Court said.
Thus, in view of the notification and the Court’s order, it was held that the provisions of Section 6(2)(f) of the Act could not be read to deny passport facilities to the petitioner.
The Court further directed the passport authority to process the petitioner’s application for renewal of his passport for a period of two years.
It nonetheless clarified that the petitioner’s application for renewal would be subject to him submitting an undertaking that if required by the court concerned, he would appear before it at any time during the continuance of the passport so issued.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate Gaurav Gupta.
The Central Government and the RPO were represented by Advocates Anjana Gosain, Shalini Nair and Himanshi.
PEC Ltd was represented by Advocate Chandrachur Bhattacharya.
The Delhi High Court had earlier held that a passport cannot be suspended or revoked under Section 10(3)(c)of the Passports Act on account of non-appearance before an investigation authority pursuant to proceedings under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.
Read the Judgment: