The Kerala High Court in a recent case of Faisal. P.A. v. Regional Passport Officer has held that the passport cannot be impounded or cancelled on the ground that it is detrimental to the ‘economic ‘security of India.
The question before Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu was whether “security” of the nation as mentioned in the Passport Act, 1967, includes “economic security”.
Justice Naidu held that the term ‘security’ in Section 6(1) of the Passport Act, 1967, does not encompass ‘economic security’.
In this case, the Regional Passport Officer (RPO) acting on the Customs Department’s communication has impounded the passport of three persons on the ground that it would harm the economic security of the nation.
The Bench observed that any provision that affects the fundamental right to travel needs strict interpretation. Interpolation is not one established method of interpretation, especially, of a provision with consequences: “economic” is an interpolation before “security”, the court noted relying on the judgment in the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India.
“To reiterate, freedom of movement is a facet of fundamental rights. A citizen’s right to travel can be curtailed only through the procedure established by law. If the right to travel is a part of a person’s liberty, that person cannot, according to Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam, be deprived of his freedom except by due process of law,” Justice Naidu said.
Further, the court also took into consideration a full Bench judgment of the Kerala High Court in Abdul Salam v. National Investigating Agency, in which the court held that the term “security” occurring in Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 “cannot be stretched by interpretative process to include economic security.”
On the basis of the above observations, the court concluded that “True, the RPO can act on any person’s information, and the Customs Department suffers no disqualification to notify the RPO. But that information received, the RPO must act independently. He must ensure that the allegations, taken as true, contravene any of the eventualities spelt out either in Section 6 or Section 10 of the Passport Act. Here, I see the Customs Department’s complaint meeting no ground mentioned in these provisions, for I hold that “security” will not encompass “economic security.”