Holding that the rigours of provisions of the Passport Act which restrict from issuance/ renewal of passport to persons facing criminal prosecution stand relaxed by a notification issued by the Centre in 1993, the Delhi High Court has directed the Regional Passport office to renew the passport of Rajiv Chaturvedi, the Chief General Manager of state-run PEC Limited.
In so saying, Justice Vibhu Bakhru has held that nothing precludes a person facing criminal or departmental proceedings from obtaining passport facilities if he has sought permission from the court as per the 1993 notification.
While Section 6 of the Passport Act provides that travel documents can be refused to persons facing criminal proceedings, the 1993 notification provides that the same can be issued if the court seized of the matter permits.
Chaturvedi, along with other officials of PEC Limited, a PSU under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, stands charged with offences under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act following an FIR registered by the CBI last year for allegedly cheating the PSU of Rs 531 crores.
He had moved court through advocate Gaurav Gupta after PEC Limited refused to grant him a No- Objection Certificate (NOC) for getting his passport renewed.
The PEC had cited the Office Memorandum dated 28.03.2018 issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension, Department of Personnel and Training which stated that vigilance clearance and the consequent no-objection certificate needed by a Public Servant for issuance/renewal of the Passport should ordinarily be withheld if there are Disciplinary proceedings pending against him.
Chaturvedi challenged this March 28, 2018 office Memorandum besides another Office Memorandum dated 02.08.2018 issued by PEC Limited, declining his request for issuance of NOC for the renewal of his passport.
Gupta told the court that in keeping with the notification dated August 25, 1993 issued by the Centre requiring persons booked for certain offences to seek court's permission for passport renewal, Chaturvedi had applied before a Special CBI court at Greater Bombay seeking permission for renewal of passport and the permission for the same was granted in April, 2018.
However, he was not allowed renewal of passport by the regional passport office.
Before the high court, the respondents including the Centre, PEC and the passport office submitted that since charges have been framed against Chaturvedi, passport facilities have been denied to him in view of Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act, 1967 which provides that the passport authority shall refuse to issue a passport or travel document for visiting any foreign country if the proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are pending before a criminal court in India
The counsel appearing for the PEC Limited also contended that the order dated 24.04.2018 passed by the Court of the Special Judge was conditional and permits issuance of a passport only if it is otherwise permissible as per the relevant passport rules.
The high court, however, noted that apart from referring to Sections 6(2)(f) and 10 of Act, PEC did not draw its attention to any other rule, which would preclude Chaturvedi from obtaining passport facilities. The Court also noted that the concerned criminal court had permitted the renewal of passport.
"The reliance on Section 10 of the Act is ex facie misplaced, since it pertains only to impounding and revocation of passports and travel documents," said Justice Bakhru.
"The relevant provision is Clause (f) of Sub- section (2) of Section 6 of the Act. However, the rigors of that provision, as noticed above, have been relaxed by the notification dated 25.08.1993.
"In view of the above, it is directed that if the petitioner submits an application for renewal of the passport, the same would be processed for renewal for a period of two years. This is also subject to the petitioner submitting an undertaking to respondent no.5 that if required by the Court concerned, the petitioner would appear before it at any time during continuance of the passport so issued," ordered the Court.
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