A plea was filed by Mehbooba Mufti, the former Chief Minister of J&K and President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over a delay on the issue of her passport for allegedly wanting police verification. The J&K High Court on Monday (March 8, 2021), explicitly pursued the government’s response on the same matter.
The matter was heard by Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey. Mufti was represented by Senior Counsel Jahangir Iqbal Ganai who submitted before the Bench that his client had applied for a fresh passport in December 2020 after the expiration of her former passport on May 31, 2019.
It was submitted before the court of law that the passport is supposed to be issued within 30 days as per circular instructions of the Ministry of External Affairs. However, in the matter in issue, it had been more than 3 months. Mufti was enlightened by the status of her passport by the tracking facility available in the Passport Officer’s website which stated the same as ‘Pending for physical verification at respective Thana under SP office, District Srinagar.’
She also stated before the court that she had made an effort by approaching the Respondent No. 5/Sr. Superintendent of Police on February 13, 2021 and requested him to forward the said police report to the passport office. However, there had been no change in the status of the issuance of her passport till date.
She further said that she has a right under Article 21 of the Constitution to hold a passport.
The petition read:
"The delay in issuing a passport in favour of the petitioner is an act that is not in conformity with the constitutional mandate and the provisions of the Passport Act. The delay occasioned in issuing the passport in favour of the petitioner has an effect of imposing restrictions on the rights of the petitioner vested upon her by the Constitution of India, which guarantees her freedom to travel abroad.”
It also stated, “It is essential to state here that right to travel abroad inheres in right to life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution of India.”
Therefore, Mufti wanted to seek directions from the High Court on the same matter, in order to direct the Respondents to issue her passport speedily.
Order of the Court
The Additional Solicitor General of India, TM Shamsi on being asked upon the court submitted, the Respondent No. 4 (Passport Officer, Srinagar) has already sought information from the Additional Director General of Police (CID), J&K.
Therefore, while issuing a notice to MEA, Regional Passport Officer and Additional Director-General of Police among others, the court remarked:
"It is made clear the pendency of writ petition shall not form any impediment for the police agency to expedite the verification."
The matter will be heard again on March 23, 2021.