Synopsis: The Court held that Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act does not apply in cases where renewal of passport is sought.
Recently, the Karnataka High Court held that, although the passport authorities can refuse to issue a new passport to a person awaiting criminal proceedings in India, the same rule does not apply to the renewal of a passport.
While interpreting Section 6(2)(f) of the Passport Act, the Bench of Justice Hemant Chandangoudar concluded that it was obvious from the reading of Section 6(2)(f) of the Passport Act that the Passport Authority will refuse to issue a passport or travel document for a visit to any foreign country where the applicant in India is awaiting criminal proceedings. However, the clause does not allow for the refusal of a person intending to travel back to India. Accordingly, reading this section, clearly shows that it applies only to the issuance of a new passport and not to the renewal of a new passport.
The petitioner had requested the Court to provide instructions to the authorities to approve his application for the renewal of his passport dated 22 January. He claimed that he moved to the USA in 2006 and resided there on an H1B visa along with his family.
He applied for the renewal of his passport through his travel agency at the Indian Consulate in New York on 1st January 2020. The petitioner subsequently sent an email to the Consulate informing the authorities that his passport was due to expire shortly, and submitted several requests to the Consulate.
The Regional Passport Office told him on 17 July that it had received from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) a letter stating that a criminal case against him was pending.
The petitioner answered that he had no knowledge whatsoever of any criminal case pending against him and that, since 2002, he had been living abroad. He also requested that the Regional Passport Office issue him a temporary passport to allow him to travel to India.
Since the Regional Passport Office did not respond, the complainant approached the High Court.
After hearing the submissions, the Court declined to consider the ASG’s submission that an emergency certificate could be obtained from the petitioner in order to fly to India. It claimed that the petitioner’s passport had not been rejected, impounded or revoked, and that the rules for obtaining an emergency certificate did not apply to him.
Thus, the petition was allowed, with the Court directing the authorities to renew the passport of the petitioner for a period of nine months, subject to the deposit of a bank guarantee amounting to Rs. 5 lakh.