HC directs RPO to issue passport to Mehbooba’s mother

 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has asked the authorities to re-examine the issue regarding the passport to former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s octogenarian mother, observing that Regional Passport Officer (RPO) was not required to act “arbitrarily and as mouthpiece of the Crime Investigation Department (CID).”

Hearing a petition by Gulshan Nazir, wife of former Home Minister of India and ex-Chief Minister late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, a bench of Justice M A Chowdhary said that apparently there was no ground to refuse her request for issue or renewal of passport.

Noting that “even there is not an iota of allegation against the petitioner that may point out to any security concerns”, the court said that the Police verification report formulated by CID-CIK cannot override the statutory provisions of Section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967.

“Otherwise also in the report relied upon by the Regional Passport Officer and the appellant authority nothing adverse has been recorded against her with regard to any security concerns,” the court said.

It said that the only aspect with regard to the petitioner was the reference of investigation by two agencies, the Enforcement Directorate and the CID-CIK with regard to some of the transactions regarding some bank accounts maintained by the petitioner either separately or jointly with her daughter Mehbooba Mufti.

The court observed that simply on the basis of the report of the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Investigation Department (CID) that had recommended that passport should not be issued, the passport officer, under the provisions of the Passport Act, cannot shut his eyes and act on that.

It said that since the passport applied for by the petitioner had not been issued as the same was not recommended for security clearance by the CID, the decision taken by both the passport officer as well as the appellant authority was “misplaced on account of security".

The court said that the refusal by the passport officer was "non-application of mind".

"At least, the passport officer should have, in the background of the facts and circumstances, if required, asked the Police and the CID agency as to whether there is anything adverse against the petitioner," the court said. "In such a situation without going into the Police verification report, refusal on part of the passport officer simply is termed as non-application of mind.”

After looking into the referred facts and circumstances, along with the CID report, the court said: "The passport officer has not to act as a mouthpiece of the CID. When an authority is vested with the power, the same is to be exercised judiciously and not arbitrarily as has been done in the instant case."

It said that it appears that the passport officer had acted on the forwarding letter of the CID instead of analysing its report in detail.

The court said that the Police verification report prepared by the CID was with regard to two applications, one by the petitioner and the other by her daughter.

It said that the report had exhaustively dealt with regard to the petitioner's daughter making references to her ideology and activities, which were termed as a risk to the security of India.

"However, there is no mention with regard to the petitioner in the report in question, on the basis of which recommendation was not made to re-issue passport in favour of the petitioner and the passport officer refused to issue the same for the reason of 'security,'" the court said. “The appellate authority also seems not to have perused the Police verification report and upheld the order of the passport officer, ‘on the wrong premise of security without any foundation.’”

It said that the ground on which the request of the petitioner for re-issue of the passport has been rejected "is totally untenable and unsustainable" in the eyes of the law.

“The petitioner, who claims to be an octogenarian, in the absence of any adverse security report, cannot be deprived of her fundamental right guaranteed to her under Article 21 of the constitution to travel abroad as an Indian citizen,” the court said.

Allowing the petition, the court set aside the orders impugned and asked the passport officer to consider the entire matter afresh and pass orders within a period of six weeks from the date the copy of the order is served upon him.

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