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REFUSAL OF PASSPORT TO AN INDIAN ON THE GROUND THAT THE APPLICANT TRIED TO SEEK ASYLUM IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY IS ILLEGAL AND CONTRARY TO THE PROVISIONS OF PASSPORT ACT

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 No. 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.


Section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967 contains the circumstances under which a citizen can be denied the passport and there is no section in the Passport Act prohibiting the issuance of passport to an individual who has previously applied for political asylum in a foreign country. So, if the case of the applicant does not fall within the ambit of these provisions, Passport Authority is duty bound to issue the passport otherwise, the same amounts denial of Fundamental Rights as enshrined under Article 21 and 19 of the Constitution of India, as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Menaka Gandhi Vs. UOI, AIR 1978 S.C. Page 597.

 

Now the question which arises is that: Can an act of individual visiting a foreign country on an Indian passport and then applying in that country for asylum, be construed as “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India” resulting into refusal of passport to such individual under the Passport Act, 1967?

ANSWER: A Division Bench of Delhi High Court has answered the above-said question in negative and has held that,

“23. This Court is of the opinion, therefore, that sovereignty and integrity of the country are robust concepts that can withstand the actions of isolated individuals who may seek political asylum; their mere action in so seeking asylum-without more, by way of action tending to undermine the sovereignty, through actions that can result in disorder or violence-cannot be a ground for refusing passport to them.”

~ Union of India v. Satnam Singh, 2018 AIR (Delhi) 72.


             Following the above-said observation in the case of Satnam Singh, Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana has also held in the case of Anil Kumar Kotwal v. Union of India, 2021 (2) Law herald 1688  has set aside the refusal of Passport and while directing the authorities to issue the Passport, it has been held that:

10. In view of the aforesaid categorical restrictive provision in the Act, the passport authority cannot refuse to issue a passport on any other ground except as those enumerated therein. In present case, the reason for refusal of passport to the petitioner as given in letters dated 27.05.2013 (Annexure P-7) read with letter 16.05.013 (Annexure P-6) is that he is an asylee.

11. The grounds specified in section 7 ibid, do not include any such disqualification for issuance of a passport. Neither the grant nor refusal of asylum in foreign country a ground permissible under the Act ibid for refusal of passport. What is to be seen is whether an applicant is citizen of India or not? The petitioner cannot be refused a passport either, because he is an asylee or he had sought but was declined political asylum in Germany. In my opinion, the ratio in Satnam Singh judgment is fully applicable to the instant case.

12. Learned counsel for respondents also argues that the petitioner had admitted in his affidavit filed with the application that he was granted political asylum in Germany. At worst, on that account, the petitioner may be guilty of a false declaration/mis- statement. For that, the concerned authority may, if it considers necessary/proper, proceed appropriately against the petitioner, in the manner as may be permissible under law.

13. In the premise, order/letter dated 27.05.2013 (Annexure P-7), asking petitioner to approach foreign government, is set aside with direction to the respondents to process the application of the petitioner for issuance of passport in accordance with law.

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