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Impounding Of Passport Affects Personal Liberty; Can't Be Ordered U/S 104 CrPC: Chennai Sessions Court In Leena Manimekalai's Case

Aaratrika Bhaumik
22 Oct 2021 12:30 PM GMT
Impounding Of Passport Affects Personal Liberty; Cant Be Ordered U/S 104 CrPC: Chennai Sessions Court In Leena Manimekalais Case
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Impounding of passport directly affects personal liberty of citizen, the Court observed.

A Sessions Court in Chennai on October 20 set aside the order of a Metropolitan Magistrate directing the Regional Passport Officer to impound the passport of filmmaker Leena Manimekalai on account of the criminal defamation case pending against her.Manimekalai had come out with sexual harassment allegations against film director Susi Ganesan during the 2018 #MeToo movement. Consequently,...

A Sessions Court in Chennai on October 20 set aside the order of a Metropolitan Magistrate directing the Regional Passport Officer to impound the passport of filmmaker Leena Manimekalai on account of the criminal defamation case pending against her.

Manimekalai had come out with sexual harassment allegations against film director Susi Ganesan during the 2018 #MeToo movement. Consequently, Ganesan had filed a criminal defamation case against her in 2019 before a Magistrate's Court in Chennai.

On September 9 this year, the Passport Officer impounded Manimekalai's passport under section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act, 1967 following a direction made by the Magistrate.

The prosecution defended the Magistrate's order saying that there was a High Court direction to dispose of the defamation case within 9 months. However, Manimekalai has been adopting adverse tactics to avoid the proceedings.

Principal Sessions Judge R. Selvakumar observed that the concerned Magistrate 'had no power' to order for the impounding of passport under Section 104 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which otherwise authorises Court to impound any document or thing produced before it.

Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court judgment in Suresh Nanda v. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wherein the Apex Court had held that since the Passports Act is a special legislation, it would override the general provision of Section 104 CrPC.

"The Hon'ble Supreme Court is Suresh Nanda case categorically held that passport does not come under u/s 104 CrPC, it can be impounded by the Passport Authority after conducting proper enquiry. Under such circumstances, the trial Court appears to have erred in impounding the passport", the Sessions Court said.

It further held merely because there was a direction to dispose of the case in a stipulated time, no order can be passed impounding the passport as it directly affects the liberty of the citizen. 

The Sessions Court also noted that the passport of the petitioner had not been produced before the Magistrate.

"It has been categorically held that impounding of passport cannot be done by the court u/s 104 of CrPC. A court is competent to impound any document gathered during the investigation and produced before the court. In this case, the passport had not been produced before the Court. So invoking Section 104 CrPC to impound the passport is not proper", the Court further ruled.

The Judge further opined that the Passport Authority is legally bound to serve notice to the concerned citizen before impounding her passport which was not done in the present case.

Accordingly, the Court set aside the order passed by the Metropolitan Magistrate by ruling that no order can be passed impounding the petitioner's passport as it directly affects her personal liberty.

In a related development, the Madras High Court was on Friday informed, while hearing the plea filed by Manimekalai against impounding of her passport, that the Magistrate's order has been set aside by the Sessions Court.

Case Title: Leena Manimekalai v. Susi Ganeshan 

Click Here To Read/Download Order 


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