The fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution in Part III are
a cornerstone of Indian democracy and, thus, play a significant role in
protecting the individual rights of citizens. The right to hold a passport is
one of those essential rights that areguaranteed to citizens of India under
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
A passport is an official government document that enables an individual to travel internationally and serves as proof of identity and citizenship. A visa, on the other hand, is a document issued by a government that allows an individual to enter, stay, or leave the country for a specific purpose, such as tourism, work, study, or immigration.
Hence, both documents equally serve as needful documents to individuals who wish to travel overseas for various reasons such as education, employment, business, medical treatment, and tourism. The right to hold a passport, like all other fundamental rights, is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the government in the interest of national security, public order, morality, and prevention of crime.
This article attempts to draw an understanding of the right to hold a passport and further elaborates on the court procedure to be followed for obtaining passport and visa clearance in the scenarios of pendency of criminal cases.
The right to hold a passport has seen primary development through the landmark judgement of Maneka Gandhi v Union of India (AIR 1978 SC 597). The Hon'ble Supreme Court indulged in a liberal interpretation of Article 21 and observed that the right to hold a passport is a fundamental right under Article 21.
The Maneka Gandhi case, had far-reaching implications for the interpretation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, including the right to travel freely within the nation and abroad.
Maneka Gandhi, a journalist, and activist had her passport confiscated by the Indian government without any prior notice or explanation. She challenged this action in court, arguing that her right to personal liberty was being infringed. The Supreme Court, in its judgment, held that the right to personal liberty under Article 21 also includes the right to travel abroad.
The court held that the government could not impound a passport without allowing the individual to be heard and explaining the reasons for such action. In addition to the facts of this ruling, the court also emphasized the importance of the rule of law and due process, stating that any action that deprives an individual of his/her rights must be taken per the law and subject to judicial review.
The case was significant because it extended the scope of Article 21 and recognized that the right to personal liberty includes rights such as the right to travel abroad, privacy, and a fair trial, by duly focusing on the vitality of due process and procedural fairness in the exercise of state power and laws. This case case marked a crucial milestone in the development of Indian constitutional law.
Additionally, it was also relied upon in the case of PoulamiBasu vs The Government of India (2022 SCC OnLine Kar 1606), wherein a single Bench of Karnataka HC held that the right to travel abroad is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Relation of the Pendency of Criminal Cases with Obtaining Passport/Visa Clearance and Renewal
The government has the power to deny or revoke a passport on reasonable grounds, such as in cases where an individual is involved in criminal activities. However, a mere pendency of a criminal case or a proceeding cannot be considered the only reason to deny the request to obtain or renew a passport/visa application. In such cases, the concerned court having jurisdiction may exercise the discretion to grant permission by scrutinizing and analyzing all other correlated matters in deciding on the litigation of the applicant in the broad spectrum of areas of justice and law.
In a recent order, the Bombay HC directed the passport authorities not to reject a man's passport renewal application merely because of the pendency of criminal proceedings against him, observing that mere pendency of proceedings is not sufficient to deny him the right to renew his passport.
The court further observedin light of the facts of the case, that merely because the offense under Sections 406, 420, 120(b) read with 34 of IPC is pending against the applicant, the said fact by itself is not sufficient to deny the right of the applicant for renewal of the passport.
It directed the authorities to analyzethe eligibility of the applicant as required under the provisions of the Passport Act, 1967, and pass orders in accordance with its provisions, adhering to the note that, The court said that the rights of persons applying for a passport renewal are regulated by the Passport Act. If you are perplexed by a similar situation, here we have covered court procedures to follow in getting passport/visa clearance during the pendency of criminal cases.
Court Procedure for Obtaining Passport/Visa Clearance during the Pendency of Criminal Cases:
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Kishan Dutt Kalaskar
Authentication No: MR45037006110-31-0323
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