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Madras HC Issues Notice On Plea Filed By Film Maker Leena Manimekalai Challenging Impounding Of Her Passport Over Criminal Defamation Case Against #MeToo Allegations

Aaratrika Bhaumik
23 Sep 2021 8:12 AM GMT
Madras HC Issues Notice On Plea Filed By Film Maker Leena Manimekalai Challenging Impounding Of Her Passport Over Criminal Defamation Case Against #MeToo Allegations
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The Madras High Court on Thursday issued notice on a plea moved by Filmmaker, poet and civil rights activist Leena Manimekalai challenging an order passed by the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai, to impound her passport. The impounding order was passed citing the pendency of a criminal defamation case against her. Manimekalai had come out with sexual harassment allegations...

The Madras High Court on Thursday issued notice on a plea moved by Filmmaker, poet and civil rights activist Leena Manimekalai challenging an order passed by the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai, to impound her passport. 

The impounding order was passed citing the pendency of a criminal defamation case 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 on the ground of a criminal case pending before her. 

Justice R. Mahadevan on Thursday directed that notice be served to the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai through advocate A. Anuradha. He further directed the respondent authorities to file a counter affidavit within 2 weeks

Advocate Abudu Kumar Rajaratnam appearing for the petitioner contended before the Court that the impugned order by the Regional Passport Officer had been issued without giving any consideration to the reply filed by the petitioner to the show cause notice issued to her. He further submitted that the petitioner had not been extended any personal hearing before the impugned order was passed. 

"The impugned order was passed as if no reply was given", the advocate Rajaratnam contended. 

Therefore, the petitioner sought the Court's leave to direct the respondent authorities to provide her with a personal hearing on an immediate basis. 

It was also pointed out to the Court that the petitioner had been given an opportunity to pursue the Graduate Program in Film at the renowned York University, Canada on a full scholarship. Thus, it is vital that the order impounding her passport is quashed at the earliest. 

Furthermore, advocate Rajaratnam submitted that film director Susi Ganesan had acted in a 'mala-fide manner' by abusing his power to file an application seeking a direction to the Regional Passport Officer to impound Manimekalai's passport. 

In 2020, the Saidapet Magistrate had closed the said petition after Manimekalai filed an affidavit stating that she will intimate the court regarding her foreign travel plans. However, subsequently Ganesan had challenged the closure order before the Madras High Court, but without success. Later, Ganesan filed a fresh petition, and the Magistrate re-opened the earlier order to direct the Passport authority to proceed under Section 10(3)(e) of the Act, it was further submitted. 

Thus, it was argued by the petitioner that the Magistrate had committed illegality by reviewing the earlier order.

Case Title: Leena Manimekalai v. The Regional Passport Officer 

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