What is a Passport?
Passport is a travel document, usually issued by a country’s government to its citizens. It certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel.
In India, the passport is issued by the Ministry of External Affair (MEA) to the citizens of India. It enables the bearer to travel internationally and is also a proof of Citizenship under the Passports Act, 1967.
Kinds of Passports in India
- Ordinary Passport (Dark Blue cover) – It is issued to ordinary citizens for ordinary travel, such as for vacation, study and business trips (36 or 60 pages).
- Official Passport (White cover) – It is issued to individuals representing the Indian government on official business.
- Diplomatic Passport (Maroon cover) – It is issued to Indian diplomats, top ranking government officials and diplomatic couriers.
Right to Passport as a Fundamental Right
In the Satwant Singh Sawhney Case (1967), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the right to travel abroad is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which is covered under personal liberty. The Court recognized that a citizen cannot travel outside the country without a passport.
The right was further elaborated in the Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India Case (1977). The court held that it is the right of a citizen to be heard and know why his/her passport is rejected. The court also said that such an order violates Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The Court adopted a liberal interpretation of Article 21 and said the fundamental right guaranteed by the Article is violated if Passport is denied. It extended the concept of ‘personal liberty’ to the entire world.
Conditions under Passport Act
Section 9 of the Passport Act states that different conditions and forms can be prescribed for different kinds of passports. Additional conditions can be imposed by the Passport Authority on the same with the previous approval of the Central Government.
Refusal of Passport
Section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967 provides for the grounds on which a passport can be refused by the Passport Authority.
- The applicant is likely to engage in activities abroad that will pose a threat to sovereignty and integrity of India.
- The applicant may engage in activities which will adversely affect the internal security of India.
- The applicant’s presence could affect the friendly relations of the country with India.
- The Central Government is of the view that presence of such an applicant abroad is against public interest.
- In the five years preceding the date of his application, the applicant has been convicted by a court in India for an offence where he or she demonstrated lack of morality and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment.
- Criminal proceedings against the applicant are pending before a Court in India.
- An arrest warrant or a warrant or summons for appearance has been issued by a court under any law in India, or a court order prohibiting the departure of the applicant from India has been made.
- The applicant was sent back to India from a foreign country and has not reimbursed the expenditure for the same.
Appeal against Refusal of Passport
The Appellate Authority under the Passports Act, 1967 is the Central Passport Organization, a subordinate office of the Ministry of External Affairs, headed by Joint Secretary and Chief Passport Officer.
- An appeal can be made against the order of the Passport Authority or any other body to which the Passport body is subordinate to by an aggrieved person. This can be made under Section 11 of the Passport Act, 1967. An appeal against an order made by the Central Government is not permitted.
- An appeal made after the expiry of the prescribed period is not admissible unless the appellant satisfies the appellate authority that he had sufficient reason for not preferring an appeal within that period.
- In order to file an appeal under this section a petition must be made in writing and is accompanied by a a copy of the statement of the reasons for the order appealed against where such copy has been furnished to the appellant.
- The appellate authority has to follow the prescribed procedure. No appeal is disposed of until the appellant is given a reasonable opportunity of presenting his or her case.
- An order of the appellate authority confirming, modifying or reversing the order appealed against is final.
In case an appeal has been filed under Section 11 of the Passport Act against the appellate authority against grounds mentioned under Section 6 of the Passport Act and has been dismissed, a writ petition can be filed in the High Court regarding the same under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India.
Writ petition against refusal of Passport
The Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Manjit Kaur Dhaliwal vs Union Of India & Anr (2019) held that an appeal under Section 11 of the Passport Act, 1967 must be filed before invoking the Jurisdiction of the High Court through a writ petition under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India.
Delay in grant of Passport by Appellate Authority
It was held by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Dharam Singh vs Passport Seva Kendra Jalandhar (15 July, 2019) that if the Passport Appellate Authority has approved the grant of the Passport and delay is caused by the Passport Office, the petitioner can approach the Court by filing a writ petition. The Court can direct the Passport Office to take action within a limited time period.