Mumbai: The Bombay high court (HC) last week reiterated that the passport authorities are not allowed to curtail the validity of passports issued to persons facing the prosecution in India, unless a specific period is mentioned in court orders concerned.
The two-member HC division bench, comprising Justices SC Gupte and Abhay Ahuja, said under Rule 12 of the Passport Rules, 1980, the minimum period of validity of a passport other than for a child below 15 years of age is 10 years.
The bench cited that there are at least two earlier Bombay HC judgements declaring that this period cannot be curtailed in case of a person facing criminal cases, unless a certain period is specified in the court order granting no-objection for renewal of the passport.
The clarification came on a petition filed by Roshan Menezes, a merchant navy sailor from Mumbai, who had moved HC challenging action on the part of the passport authorities to renew his passport only for a year, as opposed to the usual period of 10 years prescribed under the Passports Rules, 1980.
The period of validity was curtailed because of the pendency of criminal prosecution against him under before the metropolitan magistrate court at Borivali.
During the pendency of the criminal case, Menezes’ passport had expired on June 17, 2019.
On the basis of the magisterial order of December 4, 2019, passport authorities had issued him a fresh passport in January, but it is valid only for a year, prompting Menezes to move HC.
Passport Authorities Powers Restricted By Bombay HC:
Before HC, passport authorities took a stand that the passport valid for a year was issued to Menezes in accordance with a notification issued by the central government under provisions of the Passport Act, 1980, on August 25, 1993.
The government notification had laid down rules for issuance of passports to persons against whom criminal proceedings are pending in India, providing that passports should be issued to persons facing prosecutions in the country valid only for a period specified in the court order concerned, or for a period of one year, where the order does not specify any period.
HC, however, held that the authorities could not have curtailed the validity period to one year in view of two earlier court decisions, especially when no period was specified in the magisterial order.
The bench has directed the authorities to extend within four weeks the validity of Menezes’ passport to the usual 10 years.