The Delhi High Court has slapped a cost of Rs. 25,000 to be paid to a man whose passport was revoked on illusory grounds ranging from concealment of his parents' Tibetan origin to Intelligence Bureau report that he has purchased several properties with funds from the foreign government.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru also pulled up the passport office for asking the petitioner to acquire Indian citizenship before getting a passport despite the fact that he was born in West Bengal and was an Indian national by birth.
The bench said the passport office “persisted in ignoring” the decision of a coordinate bench of the high court which had decided that the persons of Tibetan origin born in India prior to 1987 do not require separate citizenship application.
It is to be noted that in September 2016, the Delhi High Court had ruled that Tibetans born in India on January 26, 1950, to July 1, 1987, are Indian citizens by birth and should be issued passports under the citizenship Act.
In the instant case, the petitioner and his twin brother were born in Darjeeling in 1965. Their parents were of Tibetan origin. In the birth certificate issued subsequently, the nationality of the petitioner's parents was reflected as Indian.
The petitioner applied for passport for the first time in 1983 and was issued the same. Thereafter, he was also issued three other passports in 1991, 1994 and 2004, respectively.
He, however, received a showcause notice in June 2012, calling upon him to showcause why his passport should not be impounded as he had obtained a passport (the one issued in 2004) by concealing his Tibetan identity.
In July, 2012, the petitioner received an order that his passport was liable to be revoked because as per a circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) in 2012, children born to a Tibetan refugee in India were not to be treated as Indian citizen by birth and all such persons would have to make a separate application under Section 9(2) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
In another notice in September, 2012, it was alleged that he had suppressed certain information from passport office but the allegation was bereft of any particulars.
Thereafter, it was alleged in the counter affidavit filed in the court that there was a report from the IB that the petitioner was involved in "anti-national activities". This allegation did not find mention in any of the notices issued to the petitioner and there was no inquiry pending against the petitioner to show that IB had found something against him.
His case was finally closed by the passport office and passport was decided to be revoked on the ground that the petitioner was guilty of violation of Section 10(3)(b) of the Passport Act, 1967 on account of his declaring his parents as Indian at the time of applying for the passport in 2004.
The court sought to know if he had made any express declaration that his parents were Indian. The passport office replied in the negative. It was only in his birth certificate that the parents were wrongly identified as Indian.
“It is apparent from above, that the respondents have been shifting their stand and the passport authorities have denied passport facilities to the petitioner on grounds, which have been modified more than once,” Justice Bakhru noted.
“The birth certificate of the petitioner (which obviously would be as per the details provided by the petitioner’s parents) incorrectly records the nationality of his parents as Indian. This issue could have been put to the petitioner and a clarification could have been sought in this regard. It has never been the case of the petitioner that his parents were Indian nationals. The petitioner had submitted his birth certificate as per the requirement of the respondents as evidence of his date of birth and not as evidence of the nationality of his parents,” the court observed.
On the IB report against the petitioner, the court noticed that it covered a wide span of time from 1993 till 2012. “The reports suggested that the petitioner had acquired certain properties by funds provided by a Foreign Government. This is a serious allegation and it is difficult to accept that if the same was correct, the concerned law enforcement authority would not have followed it through; however, concededly there are no proceedings which are pending against the petitioner,” it said.
“It is apparent from the above that the respondents have acted not only contrary to law but also in an unfair and a callous manner. The petitioner has been denied the passport facilities for now almost five years and on grounds, which can most charitably be described as illusory.
“This Court finds it very difficult to countenance the callous manner with which the passport authorities have conducted themselves. Thus, this Court is of the view that this is a fit case where the present petition should be allowed with costs....The Passport Authorities are directed to forthwith restore the petitioner's passport. The petitioner is further awarded cost of Rs. 25,000 which shall be paid by the respondent No. 1/ respondent No. 3 (Centre/ Chief Passport Officer) within a period of four weeks from today,” the bench ordered.