The Madras High Court has directed the Passport Office to issue a passport with a regular validity of 10 years to Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP (Member of Parliament) Karti P. Chidambaram.

Karti had filed a writ petition seeking issuance of a writ of mandamus, directing the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai to consider his online application and re-issue/renew his passport for the normal period of 10 years as per Rule 12(1) of the Passport Rules, 1980.

A Single Bench of Justice Anita Sumanth observed, “Section 7(b) permits the issuance of a short validity passport only in the event reasons have been assigned for such issuance. The counter does not set out any reasons at all for such curtailment, and there is no elaboration of this aspect of the matter by the learned ASG orally either, despite a specific query posed to him in this regard. … Though the pendency of the criminal cases is admitted, the petitioner has approached the Courts several times in the interim seeking permission to travel. Such permission is seen to have been granted and there is also a finding in the order of the learned Special Judge (PC Act) (CBI) – 09 dated 19.12.2023 to the effect that the petitioner has not breached any of the conditions imposed by the Courts thus far.”

The Bench said that there is no purpose to be served in directing the respondent officer to dispose of the petitioner’s application as the result of such a direction is a foregone conclusion.

Senior Advocate P. Wilson appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Additional Solicitor General ARL Sundaresan appeared on behalf of the respondent.

In this case, Karti Chidambaram (petitioner) was the holder of a passport which was issued in 2014 with a validity till March 2024. He was elected from the Sivagangai Constituency in the general elections held in 2019 and became Lok Sabha MP from Congress Party. As per the Regional Passport Officer (respondent), there were six cases pending against the petitioner. The petitioner had earlier filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court which was transferred to the Supreme Court, challenging the initiation of cases by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The Delhi High Court had granted an interim stay of ED taking any coercive action against him upon a condition that he should deposit his passport with the Assistant Director of ED. The petitioner was approaching the Special Judge as well as the Apex Court seeking permission to travel abroad and the same was granted. Thereafter, he sought a direction to re-issue the passport with additional pages having 10-year validity. The respondent made it clear that he was not in a position to commit on the period of validity of the passport, as no application was received at that juncture. Hence, the petitioner approached the Madras High Court seeking a positive direction so that the respondent issues a fresh passport.

The High Court after hearing the arguments of both parties noted, “… if the petitioner’s passport were to be curtailed for a period of one year, then all extensions would only be for a period of one year, unless the authority concerned passes an order assigning reasons as to why the extension was made for a period other than one year. This reiterates the position that the curtailment must itself be made only for reasons to be set out in writing.”

The Court further noted that Section 10-A of the Passports Act, 1967 provides for suspension of passports or travel documents in certain cases and states that without prejudice to the general provisions for impounding of passport, the Central Government or the designated officer may, if satisfied, suspend a passport or travel document for a period not exceeding four weeks.

“Thus, the Scheme of the Act contains a carefully crafted in-built code to protect against the possible misuse of passport. The grounds for non-issue are set out under Section 6(2) and the measures to protect against possible misuse are set out under Sections 7, 8 and 10. … In this case, we are concerned with curtailment of period of passport which is permissible in terms of Section 7 upon reasons to be communicated in writing to the applicant”, it added.

The Court, therefore, held that since the proposal to limit the period of passport is bereft of any reasoning, there is no impediment for the issuance of a passport with regular validity of 10 years and direct the respondent to do so forthwith.

“The passport, once received by the petitioner, shall immediately be surrendered to the Court in whose possession it has been thus far”, it ordered.

Accordingly, the High Court disposed of the writ petition.

Cause Title- Karti P. Chidambaram v. The Regional Passport Officer, Chennai (Neutral Citation: 2024:MHC:1612)


Petitioner: Senior Advocate P. Wilson and Advocate N.R.R. Arun Natarajan.

Respondent: Additional Solicitor General ARL Sundaresan and Senior Panel Counsel G. Babu.

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