No 10-year passport for man facing trial in murder case: HC

The Karnataka High Court has upheld the Passport Authority’s rejection of a man’s application for renewal of his passport for 10 years as he is facing a trial in a murder case.

The HC has, however, said that he can approach the related court seeking the issuance of a short-validity passport as per law.

Santhosh Beejadi Srinivasa, 43, from Tumakuru, holds a Schengen area visa (for 27 European countries) but was unable to travel as the validity of the passport is less than six months.

His passport will expire on April 10, 2024 and he has sought the renewal of the passport for the next 10 years.

However, his application was declined on account of the pending criminal case.

He then approached the High Court and Justice M Nagaprasanna gave the judgement on December 4 on his petition.

Referring to the criminal case, the HC said, “The applicant is under a cloud. “If an applicant of the kind in the case at hand, wants to walk over the clouds, the cloud over such applicant must walk away.”

The question before the HC was, “Whether the pendency of a criminal case would bar the issuance or renewal/re-issuance of a passport to a citizen of this nation?”

To answer this question, the HC referred to the Passports Act, 1967 and several provisions under it.

The HC also specifically referred to the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs notification of August 25, 1993, “GSR 570(E)” which deals with this kind of situation.

“It permits the issuance of a short validity passport, pursuant to the orders that would be passed by the concerned court according to the specified period and if no period is specified, the passport would be issued for a period of one year.”

“Therefore, it is for the applicant against whom a criminal case is pending, in any court of law in the country, to approach the concerned court before which the proceeding is pending, and seek permission to travel;

“If such permission is granted, it will have to be in tune with the conditions in GSR 570,” the HC said.

Beejadi’s mother had died under unnatural circumstances and subsequently, he, his wife and his father were arrayed as accused in the case and charged with murder.

The HC said that it was a case where he could even be given capital punishment and therefore he cannot be given a passport for 10 years.

“Therefore, it is a case where the petitioner is one of the accused in an offence which can even result in capital punishment. The trial is in progress. The petitioner is not absolved of the crime, by any competent Court of law even to this date,” the HC said.

Beejadi’s counsel had argued that he had been allowed to travel with the permission of the jurisdictional court earlier even while the trial was pending.

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The HC, however, said, “It is an altogether different circumstance.”

The court said that the denial of re-issuance of the passport was in consonance with Section 6 of the Passport Act.

Sub-clause (f) of the Section says that “where proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are pending before a criminal court in India, the passport authority is empowered to deny issue of travel document,” the HC said.

Rejecting the contention that other benches of the High Court had earlier ruled that the pendency of criminal cases should not come in the way of re-issuance or renewal of a passport, the court said that it “would be applicable only to the issuance of a fresh passport and not for renewal or re-issuance”.

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