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LE Staff

Chandigarh, July 6, 2021: While directing for the renewal of passports of two persons who have been restrained by a tribunal from leaving the country without informing authorities, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has observed that every citizen of the country is entitled to a passport.

“Every citizen of the country is entitled to a passport and Articles 19 & 21 of the Constitution of India give every citizen the Fundamental Right to travel,” said Justice Sudhir Mittal in an order on Monday.

The case pertains to renewal of passport of two men from Amritsar who submitted their applications for renewal to the local passport authorities in September, 2019. Their applications were rejected as the passport authorities stated that owing to loan default of the petitioners, the Debts Recovery Tribunal had passed an order dated 29 June, 2019 restraining the petitioners from leaving the country without prior information to the Court. The concerned officer of the bank was also directed to ensure compliance by sending the order to the concerned Passport Officer.

The plea before the High Court stated that petitioner No.1 is the principal borrower and petitioner No.2 is the guarantor of a loan obtained from the Punjab & Sind Bank. The account was declared a Non-Performing Asset and thereafter proceedings for recovery have been initiated by the said bank which are pending before the Debts Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh.

In response to the petition, the passport authorities submitted before the court that Section 6(2)(g) of the Passports Act, 1967 prohibits the renewal of a passport when a competent court has restrained a person from traveling abroad. Further, the petitioners did not respond to the show cause notice dated August 9, 2019 and thus, the file was closed.

The High Court said the aforementioned clause entitles the passport authority to refuse a passport or travel document in case an order prohibiting the departure from India of the applicant has been made by any court.

But DBT’s order dated June 29, 2019 does not prohibit the petitioners from leaving India. The said order only restrains them from leaving the country without prior information. Thus, the aforementioned clause does not get attracted in this case, the court added.

Responding to the claims of the passport authorities that the petitioners did not respond to their show cause notice, the court stated that the petitioners have responded to the show cause notice vide their email dated August 15, 2019 saying that the order of the DRT is being challenged.

“Assuming, that the same is not a reply to the notice, refusal to do so does not entitle the passport authorities to close the file regarding renewal of passport. The statute does not give any such powers to the passport authorities and no particular provision entitling them to do so has been pointed out. Thus, the argument has to be rejected,” Justice Mittal said.

As per the court orders, the petitioners are also facing a criminal case in Amritsar session court which has already directed them to deposit their passports as a condition of bail. Since the renewal was required, the concerned Court permitted release of the passport for the purposes of renewal and has also directed redeposit thereof after renewal

The High Court said, “it may be noticed that the Sessions Court at Amritsar has, vide its order dated 19.07.2019 (Annexure P-7) already issued directions that post renewal the passport is required to be deposited. Thus, there can be no apprehension of the petitioners escaping his prosecution in India”.

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