Filmmaker, poet and civil rights activist Leena Manimekalai has filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court 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. Following this, Ganesan 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.
In the writ petition filed against the said order, Manimekalai submits that the order was passed without considering the reply given by her to the show-cause notice issued to her. She challenges the order as "arbitrary","unjust" and "unwarranted".
The petition filed through Advocate VS Senthil Kumar states that it is well settled principle that mere pendency of a case cannot be a ground to impound the passport. It is pointed out that the Passport was renewed in 2017, and at that point of time, there was no criminal proceeding pending against her. So, it cannot be said that the Passport was renewed by suppressing material facts.
Manimekalai further submits that she has secured admission in the York University, Canada for Graduate Program in Film and that the impounding order has affected her fundamental right to travel abroad.
She contends that the criminal defamation complaint has been filed by Ganesan only to harass her. In the said case, Ganesan filed an application seeking a direction to the 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. The petition further states that 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, the petition says.
The petitioner argues that the Magistrate committed illegality by reviewing the earlier order.