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  • Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court on 23.11.2022 ruled that mere registration of FIR or pendency of investigation by investigating agency cannot be a ground to refuse or renew a passport under Passport Act, 1967.
  • Justice Sanjeev Kumar decided the case while hearing a plea filed by the petitioner challenging the closure of his passport renewal application by passport authorities.
  • The petitioner prayed for a writ of mandamus in directing the passport authorities to renew or re-issue his passport.
  • The petitioner filed an application on 20.12.2021 for renewing or re-issuing his passport which would be expiring on 19.11.2022.
  • Despite the passage of a substantial amount of time, there was no update on the status of requests from respondents.
  • The petitioner later moved under the RTI Act to seek information.
  • The respondents have intimated to the petitioner that the passport office had been intimated by a report from the police that an FIR No.3/2019 was registered against the petitioner and hence he was required to obtain a No Objection Certificate [NOC] from the court.
  • Since the petitioner failed to submit the NOC, the respondents have closed the case for renewing the passport.
  • The petitioner challenged the closure of the application by the passport authority under the Passport Act, 1967, and the rules framed thereunder.
  • It was contended that there was no provision seeking the passport applicant to produce a NOC from court when no criminal proceedings were pending against him.
  • The petitioner further argued that mere registration of FIR and initiation of police investigation shall be no grounds to reject the request for a grant for passport renewal.
  • Relying on Section6 of the Passport Act and contended that the passport authority can refuse to issue passport or travel documents only under the grounds mentioned in Clause (a) to (i) of Sub Section 2 of Section 6 of the Passport Act.
  • Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed that Section 6(1) of the act clearly states that the application for grant of renewal of passport shall only take place as per the grounds mentioned in the section.
  • However, Section 6(2) (f) provides that refusal of grant of passport renewal or travel documents shall take place other than on grounds mentioned if there is a pending proceeding against the applicant for an alleged offence before a criminal court in India.
  • The bench further noted that if FIR is lodged and an investigation is undertaken by investigating agency, proceedings are deemed to have commenced only when a final report is laid by the agency before the court or in the private complaint and the competent criminal court takes cognizance and proceeds further as per CrPC.
  • Justice Kumar remarked that as per Section 10 of the act, the passport authority may impound or cause to impound or revoke a passport or travel document if it is brought to its notice that criminal proceedings of an alleged offence against the petitioner are pending before a competent criminal court in India.
  • Referring to the judgment delivered by Madras High Court in Venkatesh Kandasamy Vs Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs, it was held that no proceeding scan be initiated under Section 190 (a) of CrPC unless the court takes cognizance for proceeding further.
  • It was also observed that all criminal complaints against the applicant were only at the investigation stage and hence it cannot fall under the ambit of passport authorities submitting a final report in criminal court for criminal proceedings to attract Section 6(2) (f) of the Passport Act.
  • Thus, in the present case, the bench allowed the petition directing the respondent to grant passport facility to the petitioner in the re-issue category without demanding NOC from the court.
  • The respondents are also duty-bound to verify the status of the submission of the final report of FIR before the competent court.
     
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