SEEKING ASYLUM ABROAD IS NOT A GROUND FOR REFUSAL OF PASSPORT UNDER SECTION 6 OF PASSPORT ACT: HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA

India was one of those 48 countries which voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the General Assembly as Resolution 217 on 10 December, 1948 and Article 14 of UDHR which provides that :-

  • Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Even then there are cases in which passport have been denied to Indians by ministry of external affairs only on the ground that they sought asylum in a foreign country even when there is no express bar in any law or statute on issuance of passports to an individual who has previously applied for political asylum in a foreign country.

Section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967 provides for the refusal of passports, travel documents, etc. It provides that the passport authority or central shall refuse to issue passport on any one or more of the following grounds, and no other ground:

  • that the applicant may, or is likely to, engage in such country in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India:
  • that the presence of the applicant in such country may, or is likely to, be detrimental to the security of India;
  • that the presence of the applicant in such country may, or is likely to, prejudice the friendly relations of India with that or any other country;
  • that in the opinion of the Central Government the presence of the applicant in such country is not in the public interest;
  • that the applicant is not a citizen of India;
  • 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;
  • that proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are pending before a criminal court in India;
  • 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;
  • that the applicant has been repatriated and has not reimbursed the expenditure incurred in connection with such repatriation.

However in a path breaking judgement delivered by Hon’ble Delhi High Court in Union of India versus Satnam Singh dated 12.01.2018, LPA No. 13/2016 C.M. APPL. 593-594/2016 has held that:

“24. The affidavit filed by the Appellants states that from the information received from the 37 RPOs, it is found that a total of 85 cases wherein the applicants came back to India or were deported by a foreign government after rejection of their requests for political asylum, are still pending from the year 2013 to 2015. Generally, political asylum in a foreign country is sought by people who fear persecution in their own country and are, therefore, unwilling to return and such an act might bring disrepute to India, given that instances of people seeking passport after having been refused political asylum by a foreign country have risen in the recent years as in terms of the data provided by the Appellants. However in these cases, this Court concurs with the view in the impugned orders (and Kulvir) that, however, condemnable the act of seeking political asylum in a foreign land, ipso facto, (i.e. by itself, and without any other fact showing that the applicant had involved himself or herself with activities of any individual or groups that plot, or had conspired, or are conspiring violence and other such activities to undermine the establishments in India or a section of its people) it cannot possibly be a ground to deny passport under Section 6 (1) (a) of the Act.”

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CASE LAW 

Jatin Khosla versus Union of India and others, CWP no. 18346 of 2017, order dated 16.07.2018

Mr. Navkiran Singh for the petitioner

Facts of the case:

Petitioner- Jatin Khosla who is an old Indian Passport holder issued on 05.11.2001, issued a Student Visa for the Republic of Cyprus on 11.03.2004 and he travelled to Cyprus on 14.03.2004 on a valid visa and passport. However, while in Cyprus, the petitioner was misguided by an agent and advised to file for a political asylum in Cyprus. The petitioner subsequently applied for political asylum, but was refused and thereafter, he had to apply for an Emergency Certificate in order to travel back to India. Since the petitioner’s old passport expired, he applied for re-issuance of passport vide fee receipt dated 04.06.2014. The Ministry of External Affairs via its Passport Officer, Jalandhar refused to grant a passport to the petitioner vide letter dated 19.08.2014 and wrote that since he had applied for political asylum, hence, they have decided not to issue the passport for a period of five years from the date of deportation. Petitioner, filed the present petition challenging the order of Regional Passport Officer dated 19.08.2014 in the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

Mr. Navkiran Singh, Counsel for the Petitioner, referred to LPA No. 13-2016 titled as Union of India and anr v. Satnam Singh, decided on 12.01.2018 dismissing the appeals filed by Union of India wherein the question was that whether the activities of passport applicant, while visiting a foreign country on Indian Passport and then applying in that country for asylum, can be construed as “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India” resulting in justifiable refusal to denial of passport to such individual on that ground under Section 6 (1) (a) of the Passport Act, 1997.

Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana held that:

In view of the discussions made above, the present writ petition is allowed and order 19.08.2014 is set aside and respondent-department is directed to consider the case of the petitioner for issuance of the passport, as his case is squarely covered by the decision in Satnam Singh’s case (supra) and pass appropriate orders, expeditiously, in accordance with law.