The passport authority does not have the power to decide whether an accused person in a criminal case could travel abroad or not. This power is with the magistrate, handling the criminal case, who alone can impose conditions on travel abroad if an application is made seeking permission to travel abroad. This decision was given by the Bombay High Court (division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice Ms. Nutan Sardessai) on 30 November 2016 in the case of Samip Nitin Ranjani v. Union Of India And Ors. [WRIT PETITION NO. 12784 OF 2016].
The high court held that in the present case, the applicant was working as a flight purser with Jet Airways in which capacity he has to travel abroad and he has to return along with the flight, due to which there is no possibility of him absconding.
The aforesaid writ petition was filed by Samip Nitin Ranjani who had challenged the renewal of his passport only for a year as opposed to renewal for 10 years. He was facing a criminal case for assaulting a traffic policeman and for criminal intimidation and driving dangerously. He had also filed a counter-case against the policeman for allegedly demanding a bribe and physically assaulting him on refusing to pay the bribe. He was released on bail in the said criminal case. He had filed an application before the Magistrate court in Mulund in Mumbai for renewal of his passport and the magistrate had directed for the same. However, instead of renewing his passport for 10 years, as is usually done, his passport was renewed only for one year. He challenged it before Bombay high court in the above petition.
The high court held that whenever a criminal complaint is pending against a person who wishes to go abroad, the magistrate handling the criminal case alone has the jurisdiction to impose the condition regarding his right to travel. When an application is made for renewal of the passport, the passport authority has to adhere to provisions of the Passport Act unless the magistrate has placed restrictions in this regard.
The court held that the Supreme Court has held that the right to travel for business or service is a part of fundamental rights subject to reasonable restrictions imposed as are permissible under the Constitution.