ON BEING HELD AS CRYPTIC – NON SPEAKING ORDER PASSED BY APPELLATE AUTHORITY (UNDER PASSPORT ACT) BY HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AND ORDERED TO DECIDE THE APPEAL FOR RENEWAL OF PASSPORT IN FOUR WEEKS AFRESH, MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS OPTED TO RE-ISSUE PASSPORT TO AUSTRIAN RESIDENT SATWINDER SINGH

CASE LAW 

Satwinder Singh versus Union of India, CWP no. 12345 of 2018, order dated 14.01.2019

Mr. Navkiran Singh, Advocate for the petitioner

Facts of the case:

Satwinder Singh (petitioner) an Indian citizen who is permanently settled in Vienna (Austria) since 2003, during his stay at Vienna, Austria petitioner got charged and convicted for “Attempted Coercion”, due to which he had to remain behind the bars for 10 months, but since the petitioner was ultimately convicted for only a sentence of period of 6 months, he was granted compensation of 30,000 Euro for the Court error for keeping him behind the bars for period more than his sentence. Since petitioner was in detention, so could not get his passport renewed or re-issued in time. However, he applied for the renewal of his Indian passport vide receipt dated 11.7.2013 which remained pending with the Embassy of India (Consular and Visa Division) Vienna, Austria and ultimately the passport facility was rejected vide order dated 7.7.2016 and strangely advised him to travel on emergency certificate to India and reapply his passport from India, whereas he earlier renewed his same passport from Indian Embassy at Vienna (Austria) in the year 2009.

Father of the Petitioner was suffering from cancer in the rectum and was operated upon on 18.11.2016, so the Petitioner needed his passport to travel to India to meet him. Petitioner filed C.W.P. No. 23005 of 2016 challenging the order dated 7.7.2016, before Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana, but Hon’ble court was of the view that the petitioner should first avail the remedy of appeal provided under the Passport Act.

Petitioner then filed an appeal before the Chief Passport Officer as per Section 11 of the Passport Act, however, the same was dismissed arbitrarily vide a non-speaking order dated 6.4.2018. Thereafter, petitioner challenged the order dated 6.4.2018 as the same was arbitrary and unlawful.

 

Mr. Navkiran Singh, Counsel for the Petitioner argued that a citizen could only be denied a passport if the case of the petitioner fell under one of the grounds or more as detailed in Section 6 of the Passport Act. The only relevant ground which empowers the passport authority in the case of the Petitioner to refuse the passport is contained in Section 6 (2)(e) of the Passports Act that the applicant should not have been convicted for more than two years in the last 5 years preceding the date of his application. That the petitioner was arrested on 24.5.2009 and convicted for 6 months on 28.9.2010 and after his release he made the application for re-issue of passport on 11.7.2013 and since the petitioner was only convicted for 6 months, he could not have been denied passport on the basis of the provision of section 6 (2)(e). Secondly even there was a time gap between the date of conviction 28.9.2010 and the date of denial of the passport dated 7.7.2016 which is more than 5 years and so by no stretch of imagination could the petitioner be denied the passport under provision of section 6 of the Passport Act.

Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana in its order dated 14.01.2019 held that “The order passed by the Appellate Authority at Annexure P-10 is clearly a cryptic non-speaking order” and the matter was remanded back for consideration afresh at the hands of the Appellate Authority and it was directed that final order upon reconsideration be passed within a period of four weeks from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order.


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Thereafter, vide an order dated 08.02.2019, Ministry of External Affairs opted to allow the appeal and set aside the refusal order dated 07.07.2016 passed by Embassy of India, Vienna.

 

RELEVANT CASELAW OF SUPREME COURT OF INDIA AND PROVISION OF LAW

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgment of “Satwant Singh Sawhney vs D. Ramarathnam, Assistant Passport Officer, New Delhi” reported in 1967 AIR (SC) page1836 has held that under no person can be deprived of his right to travel except according to procedure established by law.

Section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967 provides for the refusal of passports, travel documents, etc.

Sub-Section (2) provides that the passport authority or central authority shall refuse to issue passport or travel document on any one or more of the following grounds, and no other ground:-

 (2) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the passport authority shall refuse to issue a passport or travel document for visiting any foreign country under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 5 on any one or more of the following grounds, and on no other ground, namely: –

(a)  that the applicant is not a citizen of India.,

(b)  that the applicant may, or is likely to, engage outside India in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.,

(c)  that the departure of the applicant from India may, or is likely to, be detrimental to the security of India;

(d)  that the presence of the applicant outside India may, or is likely to, prejudice the friendly relations of India with any foreign country;

(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;

(g)  that a warrant or summons for the appearance, or a warrant for the arrest, of the applicant has been issued by a court under any law for the time being in force or that an order prohibiting the departure from India of the applicant has been made by any such court;

(h)  that the applicant has been repatriated and has not reimbursed the expenditure incurred in connection with such repatriation;

(i)  that in the opinion of the Central Government the issue of a passport or travel document to the applicant will not be in the public interest.

(h)  that the applicant has been repatriated and has not reimbursed the expenditure incurred in connection with such repatriation;

(i)  that in the opinion of the Central Government the issue of a passport or travel document to the applicant will not be in the public interest.