Read Judgment: Smt. Kasturi Rajupeta V. Union of India

Pankaj Bajpai

Bengaluru, March 22, 2022: While observing that a Notification dated August 25, 1993 stipulating that the accused seeking issuance of a passport or its renewal has to obtain an order at the hands of the criminal Court concerned permitting him to travel to a foreign land, the Karnataka High Court has opined that such Notification has to be construed consistent with the Fundamental Right of a person to travel abroad and of possibility of its invocation. 

The Single Judge Krishna S. Dixit observed that when all further proceedings in the criminal case are interdicted by a higher Court, such Notification cannot be pressed into service to deny petitioner’s request for renewal/re-issuance of passport, only on the ground that a criminal case is pending. 

The observation came pursuant to a petition by Kasturi (Petitioner) seeking invalidation of the Endorsement dated September 6, 2021 issued by the Regional Passport Officer (respondent) and for a direction to consider her application for renewal of the passport, which has since expired.

Opposing the same, the respondent contended that a criminal case is pending against the petitioner and therefore she should obtain and produce a facilitative order at the hands of the Judge of the said Court, so that her application for renewal of passport may be favorably considered. 

After considering the submissions, Justice Dixit noted that the Right to travel is an inviolable human right enshrined under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, as the Right to travel abroad is held to be a facet of fundamental right to life & liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union Of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.

Further, to go abroad, one needs Travel Documents namely, a Passport issued by his native country and the Visa that may be issued by the host country, added the Single Judge. 

Justice Dixit noted that the Endorsement is structured on the ground that a criminal case is pending inter alia against the petitioner in the Court of XVII ACMM, Bengaluru City and the same having been challenged in a Writ Petition, a Co-ordinate Bench of this Court had stayed all further proceedings before the Trial judge by an interim order, was not in dispute. 

That being the position, the respondent- RPO is not justified in asking the petitioner to go the Trial the learned Trial Judge to seek permission to travel aboard in the ‘stayed proceedings’. The Notification dated 25.08.1993 purportedly issued under Section 22 of the Act, normally expects an order of the kind and this norm is applicable in ordinary circumstances, in the sense that the criminal proceedings are not stayed and hands of the Trial Judge are free to work, and not in the circumstances that have tied his hands. A contention to the contrary amounts to asking the citizen to do an impossible act”, added the Single Judge. 

Thus, Justice Dixit observed that an eminent case of refusal to exercise jurisdiction has been made out warranting interference of this court.

Accordingly, the High Court issued a Writ of Certiorari quashing the Endorsement and also issued a writ of Mandamus to the Regional Passport Officer to consider petitioner’s application without insisting upon any order from the Criminal Court concerned.

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