Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Passport authority cannot refuse renewal on pendency of appeal in court against passport holder: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Monday held that the Passport Authority cannot refuse the renewal of passport on the ground of pendency of appeal, while hearing a plea filed by a man convicted under Section 471 r/w Sections 465, 120 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code.

The bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai were hearing the application filed by a man, whose passport has been seized on account of the appeal pending against him in the Court.

Jayant K Sood, ASGI, submitted before the Court that applicant has to first take permission from the concerned Court and then only the passport can be issued to him.

Advocate Ambhoj Kumar Sinha countered the argument raised by the ASGI that there is no such provision to take permission from the Court, “though we have already given an application to the authority regarding the same”.

The Court, after going through all the facts presented and arguments made, observed that there is no such provision that the passport cannot be renewed if the appeal has been pending against any convicted person.

The Court further held that the applicant has to take permission to go abroad only, not for the renewal of the passport.

On the last date of hearing, the Supreme Court had issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation to file the counter affidavit after hearing the applicant and provided two weeks time to Jayanat Kumar to seek instructions.

Ambhoj Kumar Sinha submitted before the Court that under the provisions of Passport Act, 1967, renewal of Passport can only be refused in the circumstances mentioned under Section 6 of the Passport Act. 

According to Clause (e) and (f) of sub Section 2 of Section 6 of the Passport Act, the Passport Authority shall refuse to issue a passport or travel document for visiting any foreign country on any one or more of the following grounds, and on no other ground, namely:- 

(e) that the applicant has, at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the date of his application, been convicted by a court in India for any offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced in respect thereof to imprisonment for not less than two years;

(f) that proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are pending before a criminal court in India;

The petitioner argued before the Court that it is evident from the provisions that it is clearly not applicable in the petitioners’ case as according to the provision, the sentence must be of two years and in the present case though the petitioner was sentenced for two years, the same was reduced to one year by the High Court. 

On the point of pendency of the case before the criminal court, the petitioner argued that it is a matter of interpretation that does “criminal court” includes appellate court as well?

On this point, the Court is of view that there is a difference between pendency of case before the trial court and the appellate court.

The petitioner further submitted before the Court that he is going through mental suffering of losing his only son in this pandemic and wants to visit his daughters, one living in the US and another in Britain, for emotional support.

The present applicant, along with four others, is convicted for various offences punishable under different provisions of IPC as well as PC Act 1988. According to the complaint against the accused, Tricon Hotel Private Ltd applied for term loan for construction and running a three star hotel. Loan of Rs 69.75 lakh was sanctioned to them. During investigation, it was found that Tricon Hotel was not entitled to subsidy.

Some of the payment made in the name of the firm was misappropriated by the present applicant and four others and false vouchers were even obtained from a firm. The applicant submitted a false report, facilitating the other accused to receive the loan. Loan In-charge released loan without verifying the terms and conditions of the sanctioned letter. The amount was withdrawn by co-accused Dhiresh Kumar Chakraborty. Another co-accused Aparesh Das Purkayastha issued false certificate in the name of the company. All the accused entered into a conspiracy and caused loss of Rs 57,04,700 to the public exchequer.

The High court of Meghalaya held that the appeal has no merit. However, considering the age of the accused and also their behaviour during the pendency of the trial, the term sentence of two years was reduced to one year.


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