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The CBI could not impound or retain anybody’s passport as the power lies only with the passport authority, the Delhi High Court ruled on Friday (May 19). It was hearing a plea wherein a man’s passport was seized by CBI’s Chandigarh branch on the ground that he may escape the country during investigation. But incidentally, the central probing agency did not even file a chargesheet before impounding his passport.

The High Court was not convinced by this argument and wanted the agency to take action within six weeks as per the court’s order. It said that the passport was not lying with the court, which proved that the petitioner was still not an accused.

The petitioner had sought an investigation into the matter, including an order to CBI for returning the passport and submit the chargesheet file.

The CBI pleaded that the passport was seized under Section 10 of the Passport Act.

The High Court observed that even it doesn’t have the power to retain or impound anybody’s passport. That power rests with the passport authority, it clarified and added that even if the police seize somebody’s passport it will have to explain the reason in a letter sent to the passport authority. A passport is the property of the government, the court ruled.

—India Legal Bureau

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