Passport issued to the Indians residing abroad cannot be revoked until notice has been served and the individual has been afforded a hearing. The bench of Pratibha M. Singh J. while adjudicating the matter in Akshay Vinod Kulkarni v Chief Passport Officer W.P.(C) 9595/2020 dealt with the suspension of the passport of the petitioner and the domain of audi alteram partem.
The Petitioner was an Indian passport holder having passport bearing No. M – 4819805, which was issued on 30th January, 2015 by the Consulate General of India, Houston, U.S.A. The Petitioner is working as a Senior Implementation Manager in a company in the health sector. The Petitioner and his wife had various matrimonial disputes. From the facts narrated hereinafter, it appears that it is during the matrimonial proceedings that the Petitioner was informed that his passport has been suspended by the Indian Consulate in Houston, U.S.A, pursuant to a complaint filed by his wife. The said information was learnt by the Petitioner sometime in September, 2019, though suspension of the passport is alleged to have taken place on 17th September, 2018. The crux of the dispute in this case, as per the petitioner was that prior to the suspension of the passport of the Petitioner, no notice was given to the Petitioner. Moreover, he was also not afforded a hearing. While his wife continued to live in the USA, merely because of her complaint, his passport could not have been suspended – that too without notice to him and without hearing him.
It was submitted that the order of suspension has been passed under Section 10A of The Passports Act, 1967 (hereinafter, “Act”) and thereafter, the proceedings were commenced and an email was written to the Petitioner on 5th November, 2018. However, none of these facts are on record either on affidavit or through documents.
In the opinion of the court, the shocking part of the present case was that, despite long drawn correspondence the Respondents had not served the passport suspension order or the denial order to the Petitioner. He was shuttled between the RPO-Kozhikode who informed him that it was the Indian Mission in Houston which revoked his passport. The passport of the petitioner has been suspended on the basis of a complaint by the wife due to matrimonial disputes for more than two and half years. The correspondence on record reveals that the Petitioner has repeatedly approached various authorities seeking revival of his passport as also for a copy of the denial order, but in vain. Even before this court the Respondents have not filed any affidavit or document on record till date, despite having more than five months to do so.
The Court backed the view that the petitioner could not be made to live without a passport indefinitely. The court in an earlier instance had given adequate time to the Respondents to file an affidavit/documents on record, however, not a single shred of paper has been placed on record. On merits, whether the suspension/revocation was justified or not would be the subject matter of final adjudication. However, the petitioner couldn’t be made to suffer further especially due to the pandemic that is currently raging which may require him to travel to India to meet his mother who is in India, owing to her age.
The bench hence sounded the judgment that, “The Passport Office shall communicate the order passed today to all the relevant authorities, so that the order suspending the Petitioner’s passport does not act as an impediment to the Petitioner travelling on the new passport. Further, the travel of the Petitioner shall be subject to any international restrictions relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the issuance of the passport shall not, in any manner, be delayed due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions.”