Rajesh Gupta Vs. Union of India
DATE OF ORDER:
23 November, 2022
Justice Sanjeev Kumar
Petitioner- Rajesh Gupta
Respondent- Union of India
The learned single judge bench of High Court of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, in the present case, while touching upon the issue of determining at what stage can a criminal proceeding be said to commence ruled that mere registration of FIR or pendency of investigation cannot be a ground for refusal of reissue/renewal of passport under the Passport Act, 1967. The learned judge arrived at this conclusion while hearing a petition filed by a citizen challenging the decision of the passport authority of closing his passport renewal application on ground of pending criminal proceedings against him.
THE PASSPORT ACT, 1967
- Section 6 (2)- provides that the passport authority can refuse to grant passport and travel documents only on the ground mentioned in the present section.
- Section 6 (2) (f)- enlists pendency of a criminal proceeding against an applicant in a competent court in India as a ground to refuse the grant or renewal of a passport or other travel documents.
- The petitioner filed an application for renewal of his passport that was set to expire on 19th November, 2022.
- Even after considerable time had elapsed, he received no intimation from the concerned authorities (respondent) regarding the same. He was only informed that his police verification was still to arrive, hence the delay.
- The petitioner then moved an application under Right to Information Act with a view to know the status of his passport file. Non-receipt of police verification was again cited as the reason for the delay by the concerned authorities.
- A new application for Right to Information was filed by the petitioner. This time, it was intimated to him that a report indicating an FIR registered against him has been furnished by the police to the respondent. He was then asked to submit a No Objection Certificate from the Hon’ble Court.
- Since no criminal proceeding was pending against him, he could not furnish a No Objection Certificate.
- As a result, the respondent closed the case of the petitioner for renewal of the passport.
- Whether mere registration of FIR and initiation of investigation by the Investigating Agency is a ground good enough to deny the issue/renewal of passport in favour of the applicant involved in such FIR?
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE PETITIONER
- The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that there exists no provision in the Passport Act, 1967 or the rules framed thereunder that mandates the submission of a No Objection Certificate from the court in cases where there is no pendency of criminal proceedings against the applicant.
- It was further submitted that mere registration of FIR or commencement of investigation by the police is not a ground for rejecting an application for renewal/issue of passport.
ARGUMENTS RAISED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The learned counsel for the respondent submitted that an adverse police report citing the registration of an FIR against the petitioner has been furnished.
- As such, in view of the provisions of the Passport Act, 1967, it became imperative that the respondent direct the petitioner to submit a No Objection Certificate in order to get his passport renewed.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The right to travel abroad forms a part of the right of personal liberty as enshrined in the Article 21 of the Constitution of India. As a result, it is to be noted that such right can only be restricted in circumstances which the law provides and not otherwise.
- The Passport Act, 1967 was passed by the parliament with a view to govern the issue of passports and travel documents to regulate the departure from India of citizens of India and other persons and matters incidental or ancillary thereto.
- The Court further threw a light upon the provision of the Passport Act that dealt with refusal of the passport or travel documents. It observed that section 6(1) of the Passport Act provides in express terms that an application for grant or renewal of passport cannot be rejected on any ground other than the ones mentioned in the section.
- The Hon’ble Court observed that clause (f) of Sub Section (2) of Section 6 of the act lists pendency of criminal proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant as a ground for refusal to renew passports or other travel documents.
- The Court also highlighted the fact that a criminal proceeding can be said to commence only when a final report is furnished by the investigating agency to the competent court. In cases initiated on the basis of a private complaint, it is only when Magistrate takes a cognizance on such complaint that a criminal proceeding can be said to have been initiated.
- Elaborating further on the position of law applicable to the matter in dispute, the court also made a reference to the section 10 of the Passport Act which provides that the passport authority may impound or cause to be impounded or revoke a passport or travel document if it is brought to its notice that the proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the holder of the passport or travel documents are pending before a criminal court in India.
- To support its observation the court referred to a decision of Madras High Court in Venkatesh Kandasamy v. Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs [AIR 2015 Mad 3] where it was held that no proceeding can be said to have been initiated under Section 190(a) unless cognizance is taken by the competent court.
After adjudicating upon the matter in great details, the learned Judge answered the question raised in the present case in negative. It was concluded that mere registration of FIR or pendency of investigation by Investigating Agency is not a valid ground to reject renewal of passport. In the present case, FIR alone was registered against the applicant and investigation was undertaken by the police. These facts do not in any way indicate the pendency of any criminal proceeding against the applicant. The court further directed the respondent to grant the passport facility to the petitioner. However, the court also asked the respondent to verify the status of the report concerning the charges against the petitioner before proceeding further.
Click here to download the original copy of the judgement
Learn the practical aspects of CrPC HERE, CPC HERE, IPC HERE, Evidence Act HERE, Family Laws HERE, DV Act HERE