Investigating Agency Can Only Seize Passport But Cannot Retain/Impound It: Jammu & Kashmir And Ladakh HC
The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court observed that an investigating agency under Section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) can only seize passports of the Accused but cannot retain or impound them.
However, the Court added that the power to retain or impound passports lies only with the Passport Authorities under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act.
The Court directed the release of the passports of Raj Singh Gehlot and Aman Singh Gehlot (Chairman and Director of Ambience Pvt Ltd respectively) who were charged by the Anti-corruption Bureau.
“Even if seizure of passport by the Investigating Agency while exercising power under Section 102 of the Cr. P. C may be permissible within the authority of the said provision, it does not have power to retain or impound the same because the same can only be done by the Passport Authority under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act”, the Bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar observed.
Advocate Tanveer Ahmad Mir appeared for the Petitioner and Deputy Solicitor General T. M. Shamsi appeared for the Respondent (Bureau).
The Judge had dismissed their passport release applications, which were proposed to be disposed of together. The charge sheet was initially filed by the Anti-corruption Bureau, but further investigation was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI states that an expired passport look-out circular was issued against Raj Singh Gehlot. Two Petitions were filed by Raj Singh Gehlot and Aman Gehlot challenging the order of the Anti-corruption Special Judge.
The Court noted that the Petitioners had previously requested the release of their passports from the Court of learned Additional Special Judge of Anti-corruption. However, their request was denied due to the stay order granted by the court in connected petitions filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
The Court referred to the case of Suresh Nanda v Central Bureau of Investigation [(2008) 3 SCC 674] and reiterated the scope of authority regarding passport seizure and impoundment.
The Court observed that while the Investigating Agency may seize passports under Section 102 of the CrPC, it lacks the power to retain or impound them. This authority resides solely with the Passport Authority under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act.
The Court further emphasized that in the event of a passport seizure under Section 102 of CrPC, the police must promptly submit it to the Passport Authority, clearly outlining the justifiable grounds for impoundment under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act. The Passport Authority would then make the final determination regarding passport impoundment.
The Court noted that, in the case, the Investigating Agency has not taken steps to transmit the seized passports of the Petitioners to the Passport Authority for potential impoundment. The Investigating Agency has not indicated any intention to impound the passports of the petitioners.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petitions and directed the release of passports.
Cause Title: Madhu Bakshi v Anti Corruption Bureau Kashmir & Anr.