HC dismisses Mehbooba, her mother’s plea

HC dismisses Mehbooba, her mother’s plea
File Photo of Mehbooba Mufti

Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday dismissed former chief minister and PDP president Mebooba Mufti's plea which had sought intervention for issuance of passport to her.

As the petition came up for hearing before a bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey today, Assistant Solicitor General of India (ASGI) Tahir Shamsi informed the court that Mehbooba's application for passport was rejected by the Regional Passport Office based on an adverse police verification report (PVR).

The ASGI produced in court a communication dated 26 March, 2021, issued by the Regional Passport Officer Srinagar which stated that the PVR received from J&K's Addl Director General of Police CID did not favour issuance of passport to Mehbooba as it was returned as "not recommended passport case". He told the court that in view of the CID report, Mehbooba's case was found to attract refusal under provisions of section 6(2)(c) of the Passport Act and accordingly her application for passport was refused.

While dismissing the former Chief Minister's plea, the court observed that as per admitted position of the scheme of law governing the grant of passport in favour of the citizens of India, the concerned passport authority upon receipt of an application from an individual has to seek appropriate report from the Police/ CID authorities concerned. On the basis of such report, the court said, the authority has to issue or refuse passport in favour of the individual.

The court observed that the petitioner (Mehbooba) was refused issuance of passport as PVR received by the Passport Officer Srinagar did not recommend grant of passport in favour of her.

"In such circumstances, I am of the considered view that no direction can be issued by this Court for issuance of passport in favour of the petitioner," Justice Magrey said.

Pointing out that the scope of the Court in the matter related to grant of passport is very limited, the court said in this behalf it can only direct the concerned authorities to expeditiously consider the case of an individual in the light of the mandate of the scheme of law governing the subject.

The court held that the authorities concerned have however already undertaken the said exercise in tune with the mandate of the scheme of law by firstly seeking a report from the police and CID authorities, and, thereafter, passing the order in tune with such recommendations.

Besides, the court said, it also finds substance in the argument of the ASGI Shamsi that the petitioner was having no absolute right to demand a passport in her favour in keeping with the law laid down by the Supreme Court in case titled 'Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam, Assistant Passport Officer, New Delhi & Ors.'

The court dismissed the petition while observing that it did not find any reason to interfere with the course of action adopted by the respondents in this case. It however made it clear that dismissal of the writ petition should not come in the way of the petitioner for availing the remedy as may be available to her in accordance with the law.

The directions came after ASGI Shamsi as well Sr AAG B A Dar submitted before the court that given the CID report Mufti's writ petition deserved to be dismissed. "No direction can be issued by the Court to issue passport to the petitioner which is contrary to the scheme of the law governing the subject," they said.

Shamsi however said Mehbooba has the remedy of appeal to Joint Secretary (PSP) and Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, against refusal order by Passport officer Srinagar within (30) days under Section 11 of the Passports Act being the appellate Authority under the Act.  He further submitted that Mehbooba has no absolute right to demand a passport in her favour as the same "being a document that vouches for the respectability of the holder stands to reason that the Government need not vouch for a person it does not consider worthy."

Senior advocate Jahangir Iqbal Ganai on behalf of Mehbooba, submitted that Section 11 of the Passports Act is not applicable to the case as the rejection/ refusal order was purportedly issued by the Passport Officer under Section 6 of the Passport Act which is not covered for appeal under Section 11 of the Act of 1967.

On March 4, the High Court had issued notice to the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and J&K government on Mehbooba's plea seeking issuance of a passport.

In her plea the former Chief Minister submitted that for want of police verification there is delay in issuance of her passport. She also sought action against officials concerned for violating her right to travel abroad as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioner said she had a right to hold a passport in terms of the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The court also dismissed a petition filed by Mehbooba's mother, Gulshan Nazir, for issuance of her passport.

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