The Andhra Pradesh High Court held that curtailing the fundamental right to hold a passport without adhering to due procedure is impermissible.

The Court allowed a Writ Petition filed by an NRI and noted that not only was the passport seizure unauthorized but the prescribed legal procedure under Sections 91 and 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) was also overlooked.

The Bench of Justice B. S. Bhanumathi observed, “The fact that the petitioner has applied for renewal of the visa stamping and a date being allotted today is not in dispute. Therefore, the passport is very much required to the petitioner and without following due procedure of law, his fundamental right to hold his passport cannot be curtailed”.

Advocate Umesh Chandra P V G appeared for the Petitioner.

The Petitioner, a resident of the USA and NRI visited Hyderabad to meet his ailing mother. As a software engineer and a member of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), he was critical of the incumbent State Government's policies. Upon arrival at Hyderabad's airport, he was detained due to a Look Out Circular (LOC). Although released, the authorities did not return his passport, hindering his scheduled visa stamping. The Petitioner approached the High Court by way of Writ Petition seeking directions to declare the actions of the Third and Fourth Respondents in withholding the Petitioner's passport as contrary to Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Court noted that Sections 91 and 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) empowers the court or a police officer to summon a person to produce documents or seize property suspected to be connected with an offence.

Furthermore, the Bench noted that Section 91 allows the court or officer to issue a summons to produce documents, with non-compliance leading to deeming compliance if the document is produced. Section 102 grants police officers the authority to seize property suspected to be stolen or linked to an offence, with reporting obligations to higher authorities. The seized property may be given to a person upon executing a bond under certain conditions.

However, the Court observed that the seizure of the Petitioner's passport was found to lack legal authorization and procedural adherence to Sections 91 and 102 of the CrPC.

As can be understood from the submissions on both sides, the seizure of the passport is not authorized nor was the procedure contemplated under Sections 91 and 102 of Cr.P.C. followed. Therefore, the continuation of holding the passport with respondents No. 3 and 4 is not legally sustainable”, the Bench added.

The Court observed the Petitioner's urgent need for the passport for visa renewal. The Court held that curtailing the Petitioner's fundamental right to hold his passport without following due legal procedure is impermissible.

Additionally, the Court noted that any violation of notices issued to the Petitioner can be addressed by the Respondents using appropriate legal provisions.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition and directed the concerned authorities to return the passport promptly.

Cause Title: Yesasvi Bodduluri v The Regional Passport Office

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