“In the present case, there is no whisper of any allegation or any circumstance which would indicate that it is necessary to impound/revoke the petitioner’s passport in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India or friendly relations of India with any foreign country,” it said.
Observing that the power to revoke or suspend passport under Section 10 (public interest) of the Passport Act is a serious restriction on the fundamental rights of an individual, the Delhi High Court has directed that the passport of an Indian national employed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, be returned to him.
The passport of Sikandar Khan, a father of three who has been working as a marketing specialist in Riyadh since 2006, was suspended in September, 2016, when he was visiting India on the basis of information that he was involved in cheating Indian nationals in Saudi Arabia. However, the show cause notice served upon him was bereft of any particulars.
Due to suspension of his passport, he could not travel back and join work overseas.
“The power to revoke or suspend a passport under Section 10 and Section 10A of the Act is a serious restriction on the fundamental rights of a citizen of India and it is plainly clear that any order revoking or suspending the passport without sufficient cause and without complying with the express conditions as indicated under Sections 10 or 10A of the Act or without following the principles of natural justice, would be liable to be set aside,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.
The court noted that under Section 10, passport can be suspended or revoked if the passport authority deems it necessary so to do the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public.
It then went on to add, “In the present case, there is no whisper of any allegation or any circumstance which would indicate that it is necessary to impound/revoke the petitioner’s passport in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India or friendly relations of India with any foreign country. The only allegation is that a complaint was received that the petitioner was involved in looting/robbery in Saudi Arabia with the help of local police friends in Riyadh and information was received that some criminal cases were being investigated. There does not seem to be any material to establish that the petitioner is involved in looting and robbery in Riyadh.”
“Almost nine months have elapsed since the petitioner’s passport was suspended and the affidavit filed by the respondents only indicates that a complaint was received from one Mr Usman; it does not refer to any other material. Prima facie, it is difficult to accept that the petitioner would want to travel to a country like Saudi Arabia (where the laws regarding robbery are very strict) in case, he was accused of any such activity,” the court held.
“Clearly, a bald allegation would clearly be insufficient to fetter/deprive a valuable fundamental right of a citizen. Insofar as criminal cases are concerned, the petitioner affirms that closure reports have been filed; more importantly, there is no order from any concerned agency or any court restraining the petitioner from travelling overseas,” it noted.