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Right to travel abroad inseparable part of Article 21: Supreme Court; allows bailed man to go to US for green card revalidation

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court, while reiterating that the right to travel abroad is an inseparable part of the Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty, has allowed a man released on bail to travel to the US to revalidate his green card.

The petitioner, Parvez Noordin Lokhandwalla, had filed a plea in the Bombay High Court seeking permission to travel to the US for a period of 8 weeks to revalidate his green card. The High Court had declined to relax the conditions imposed by it for the grant of interim bail on the ground that an FIR has been registered against the petitioner.

The period for which the petitioner had sought to travel abroad has lapsed. However, the appeal itself raised interesting issues for the Supreme Court. It was about the interface between the fundamental right to travel abroad and its curtailment under a judicial order which governs conditions of bail.

Commenting on section 437(3) of the CrPC which uses the expression “any condition”, the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee observed: “Though the competent court is empowered to exercise its discretion to impose ‘any condition’ for the grant of bail under Sections 437 (3) and439 (1) (a) of the CrPC, the discretion of the court has to be guided by the need to facilitate the administration of justice, secure the presence of the accused and ensure that the liberty of the accused is not misused to impede the investigation, overawe the witnesses or obstruct the course of justice.”

The Court further observed that the lodging of an FIR against the petitioner should act as a bar on the travel of the petitioner to the US for eight weeks to attend to the business of revalidating his Green Card. The bench further observed that: “The conditions which a court imposes for the grant of bail – in this case, temporary bail – have to balance the public interest in the enforcement of criminal justice with the rights of the accused. The human right to dignity and the protection of constitutional safeguards should not become illusory by the imposition of conditions that are disproportionate to the need to secure the presence of the accused, the proper course of the investigation, and eventually to ensure a fair trial.”

-India Legal Bureau

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