Libertatem Magazine

Kerala High Court Sets Guidelines for Issuing Passports to Criminal Defendants

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The Kerala High Court issued a major judgment recently, laying out a set of rules for criminal courts to follow before giving authorization for the issuing of passports to people facing criminal charges.

Facts of the case

The petitioner misplaced his Dubai-issued passport when he was in Kerala. Even though he sought a new passport right away, he was charged with crimes under the Indian Penal Code and the Passport Act of 1967. The petitioner was then notified by the passport office that the case for issuance of the passport had been closed due to the negative report on the crime’s pendency.

Arguments of the petitioner

The experienced counsel for the petitioner claimed that the criminal case against the petitioner was still under investigation and that the filing was erroneous and an unfortunate example of improper instructions. It had been reliably discovered, according to the learned counsel, that the police inquiry was still ongoing.  In the aforementioned conditions, it would be inappropriate to investigate the circumstances under which an Indian citizen’s passport might be refused.

The counsel also pleaded that it infringed Article 21 of the constitution where every person has the right to travel beyond the frontiers of our country. 

Arguments of the Respondents

The respondent argued that once a person got a criminal case against himself then only a fresh order specifying a further period of validity of the passport could work. Furthermore, the central government has issued a notification exempting nationals of India who are the subject of criminal proceedings before a criminal court from being denied passports on the condition that the applicant shows instructions from the court allowing them to leave India.

Observations of the court

The Court observed that it must keep in mind that, despite attempts to reduce delays, criminal cases in our nation take a long time to conclude. The Court determined that the criteria governing the award of no objection by criminal courts were still unclear. And it should be clarified by the government through proper amendments. 

The court also reaffirmed the fundamental legal concept that an accused person is assumed innocent unless proven guilty, and that wrongful prosecution can harm people’s prospects.

The decision of the Court

 Hence, the Court issued a set of rules for criminal courts to examine while giving authorization for the issuing of passports to people facing criminal charges. The guidelines primarily included considering the stage of the criminal proceeding and criminal antecedents and the past of the accused to grant him relief in these similar cases. 

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