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Passport Renewal Request Can't Be Rejected On Sole Basis Of Pendency Of Criminal Cases: Orissa High Court

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
30 March 2022 4:34 AM GMT
Passport Renewal Request Cant Be Rejected On Sole Basis Of Pendency Of Criminal Cases: Orissa High Court
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The Orissa High Court has held that mere pendency of criminal cases cannot be the sole ground to deny renewal of passport of a person. A Single Judge Bench of Justice Biswanath Rath observed, "…in the opinion of this Court there is in fact no restriction in the renewal of the passport or even grant of passport in the pendency of the criminal proceeding involving the party...

The Orissa High Court has held that mere pendency of criminal cases cannot be the sole ground to deny renewal of passport of a person. A Single Judge Bench of Justice Biswanath Rath observed,

"…in the opinion of this Court there is in fact no restriction in the renewal of the passport or even grant of passport in the pendency of the criminal proceeding involving the party concerned which may be a time based renewal or grant."

Brief Facts:

The petitioner herein worked in oilfields of the UAE. He had a contractual service in a firm on a 30 days renewal basis. He was also granted visa by the competent authority. However, his passport was going to expire on 17.05.2022. Finding that the passport was going to expire, as a consequence rendering visa infructuous, he made an application for renewal of the passport to get visa continuity in order to continue his service in the overseas oilfields.

On making the application, the petitioner was served with a communication by the opposite party no. 2, i.e. Regional Passport Officer, Bhubaneswar, thereby declined to entertain request of the petitioner to renew the passport on the ground that there were at least two criminal cases pending against him. Therefore, this writ petition was filed by the petitioner impugning such communication.

Contentions of the Petitioner:

Mr. D.P. Dhal, Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that mere pendency of criminal proceedings and especially when such proceedings were initiated at the instance of the wife, because of some marital differences between the husband and wife, should not have been a ground declining to entertain the renewal application.

He also argued that in the event there is refusal of renewal of the passport, it will render the petitioner jobless and such action may also create a stigma in getting further employment. He took the Court to the provision laid down under Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act, 1967 ('the Act') and the notification No. GSR 570(E) dated 15.8.1993 ('the notification') issued by the competent authority and also relied on multiple cases to substantiate his arguments.

Contentions of the Respondents:

Mr. P.K. Parhi, the Assistant Solicitor General of India appearing for the Passport Authority, contended that since the petitioner's attempt was to leave the country during the pendency of the criminal cases, there was difficulty in granting the renewal of passport as the petitioner may not be available with the competent authority in the event the said criminal proceedings culminate in conviction.

Court's Observation:

The Court perused the notification and observed that it clearly provides opportunity for grant of renewal of passport subject to several rider but, however, the citizen so applying shall have to give an undertaking in writing to the passport authority that he shall, if required by the court concerned, appear before it at any time during the continuance of the passport so issued.

The Court held that there is no restriction in the renewal of the passport or even grant of passport in the pendency of the criminal proceeding involving the party concerned which may be a time-based renewal or grant. The Court relied upon multiple cases to arrive at the aforesaid conclusion, including the judgment of the Supreme Court in Vangala Kasturi Rangacharyulu v. Central Bureau of Investigation.

It also took note of the reason of rejection of renewal provided in the Annexure-2, where it was clearly mentioned that in the circumstance stated therein, petitioner's application could not be considered under Tatkal category and at the same time he was asked to apply under the normal category.

Consequently, the Court permitted the petitioner to submit the required affidavit/undertaking to the concerned Passport Authority at Bhubaneswar, furnishing his position in both the criminal cases and supporting documents establishing that he is on bail. In the event of receipt of such affidavit, the Passport Authority at Bhubaneswar was directed to renew the passport.

Case Title: Asutosh Amrit Patnaik v. State of Orissa & Ors.

Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 4834 of 2022

Judgment Dated: 23 March 2022

Coram: Justice Biswanath Rath

Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. D.P. Dhal, Senior Advocate assisted by Mr. S. Mohapatra, Advocate.

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. S.P. Panda, Additional Government Advocate (for O.P. Nos. 1 & 2) Mr. P.K. Parhi, Asst. Solicitor General of India assisted by Mr. D.Gochhayat, C.G.C. (for O.P.No.3)

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ori) 37

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment

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