The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reiterated that denial of passport or its non-renewal without assigning reasons as listed under the Passports Act, 1967 infringes the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Vibhu Bakhru, on a petition filed by one Jasvinder Singh Chauhan praying for the renewal of his passport and issuance of a fresh passport to him.
Mr. Chauhan works as a truck driver in Canada on a legal work permit. In September, 2016, he was nominated by the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program, Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Canada for permanent resident status. He therefore applied for renewal of his passport at the Indian Consulate at Vancouver, but the same was not renewed even after almost two years.
This was because while processing Mr. Chauhan’s application, it was found that his brother-in-law had manipulated the passport service subsystem of the Consulate General of India (CGI), Atlanta and dishonestly obtained a passport by impersonating him. The Central Government believed that this fraud was committed in collusion with Mr. Chauhan.
The Centre now claimed that the matter is being investigated and it is awaiting the outcome of the investigation to decide on Mr. Chauhan’s application.
The Court, however, opined that in the case at hand, the denial of a passport ‒ which is the effect of non-renewal for such an extended period – clearly impinges on Mr. Chauhan’s fundamental rights.
It noted that a passport can be refused on the grounds mentioned under Section 6 of the Passports Act, 1967. It was, however, informed that the
Centre had not taken any decision categorically attributing the denial of passport to the reasons listed under the provision.
“Ms. Gosain, the learned counsel appearing for the respondent did not dispute the grounds – except as stated in Clause (i) of Section 6(2) of the Act
– were inapplicable in the facts of the present case. She submitted that the petitioner’s request for passport could be refused in terms of Clause (i) of Section 6(2) of the Act; that is, where the Central Government is of the opinion that issuance of a passport will not be in public interest. However, Ms Gosain also earnestly contended that no such decision had been taken by the concerned authorities as yet,” the Court noted.
It then highlighted the fact that Mr. Chauhan had applied for the renewal of his passport almost two years back, and that the delay has adversely affected his livelihood by putting his residential status in Canada in jeopardy.
“Although, Ms Gosain had earnestly contended that the respondent had not refused renewal of passport as yet, the fact that the petitioner’s passport has not been renewed in almost two years despite the petitioner’s compliance with all the formalities, leaves no room for doubt that the petitioner has been denied passport facilities. The fundamental rights of a citizen cannot be held hostage to an inordinately long inquiry conducted by the respondent or its agencies,” it asserted.
The Court, therefore, directed the authorities to renew Mr. Chauhan’s passport, while clarifying that if the inquiries reveal any ground to form an opinion that Mr. Chauhan should be denied a passport in the interest of general public, the Central Government can cancel the passport in accordance with law.