The Orissa High Court has held that mere pendency of criminal cases cannot be the sole ground to deny renewal of passport of a person.
A Single Judge Bench of Justice Biswanath Rath observed,
The contingency prescribes herein appears to be clearly covering the case of petitioner and in the opinion of this Court there is in fact no restriction in the renewal of the passport or even grant of passport in the pendency of the criminal proceeding involving the party concerned which may be a time based renewal or grant. This Court here takes note of reason of rejection of renewal finds place in Annexure-2 where it has been clearly mentioned that in the circumstance stated therein, petitioner’s application cannot be considered under Tatkal category and at the same time he has been asked to apply under normal category.
The petitioner was a working professional working in oilfields in the UAE. It appears petitioner had a contractual service in a firm in UAE with 30 days renewal basis. He was also been granted visa by the competent authority which was going to be expired on 17.05.2022. Finding that the passport was going to expire, as a consequence rendering Visa becomes infructuous, petitioner made an application for renewal of the passport to get Visa continuity in order to continue his service in the overseas oilfields.
It is averred on the application being filed, petitioner had been served with a communication by the Regional Passport Officer, Regional Passport Office, Bhubaneswar thereby declined to entertain the request of the petitioner on the issue of renewal of passport on the ground of pendency of 2 criminal cases at least against the petitioner and thus declined to entertain the request of the petitioner filed of the present writ petition.
CONTENTIONS OF PETITIONER
Mr. Dhal, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that mere pendency of criminal proceedings and for proceedings being initiated at the instance of the wife for there is difference between the husband and wife should not have been a ground declining to entertain the renewal application.
After this Mr.Dhal, learned Senior Counsel also contended that in the event of refusal in renewal of the passport involving the petitioner, he will become jobless and such action may create a stigma in the petitioner’s getting further employment. He took the Court to the provision at Section 6 (2) (f) of the Passports Act, 1967 and the notification No.GSR 570(E) dated 15.8.1993 issued by the competent authority .
Further placing reliance on catena of decisions in the cases of Navin Kumar Sonkar Vs. Union of India & Ors, Krishna Chiranjeevi Rao Palukuri Venkata Vs. Union of India Ministry of External Affairs, represented by its Principal Secretary and Other, in the case of Hardik Shah Vs. Union of India and the learned counsel attempted to take support of all these decisions to the case of the petitioner.
CONTENTIONS OF RESPONDENT
On the other hand , Mr.Parhi, learned Assistant Solicitor General of India appearing for the Passport Authority contended that since the petitioner’s attempt is to leave this country during the pendency of the criminal cases, there was difficulty in granting the renewal of passport as the petitioner may not be available with the competent authority in the event the said criminal proceeding culminate with conviction.
OBSERVATION OF THE COURT
The Hon’ble Court perused the notification and observed that notification clearly provides opportunity for grant of renewal of passport subject to several rider but, however, the citizen so applying shall have to give an undertaking in writing to the passport issuing authority that he shall, if required by the court concerned, appear before it at any time during the continuance of the passport so issued.
The Court held that there is no restriction in the renewal of the passport or even grant of passport in the pendency of the criminal proceeding involving the party concerned which may be a time-based renewal or grant. The Court relied upon multiple cases to arrive at the aforesaid conclusion, including the judgment of the Supreme Court in Vangala Kasturi Rangacharyulu v. Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Hon’ble Court said that
Looking to the direction of the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Vangala Kasturi Rangacharyulu Vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, decided on 27.09.2021, this Court finds here the case involves conviction of the party involved therein under Sections 120-B,420, 468, 471, 477 A of the Indian Penal Code read with section 13(2) and 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. This Court reading the aforesaid judgment of the Hon’ble Apex Court finds there has been permission for renewal of passport even after a party is convicted and his challenge to such conviction is pending consideration vide Criminal Appeal No.1343 of 2017 but in consideration of I.A.No.52346 of 2021 involving Crl. Appeal No.1343 of 2017.
The Hon’ble High Court of Orissa held that
“In the above circumstance, this Court permits the petitioner to submit the required affidavit/undertaking giving therein the position involving both the criminal cases and supporting documents establishing the petitioner is on bail at least one week of this judgment to the concerned Passport Authority at Bhubaneswar. In the event of receipt of such affidavit, the Passport Authority at Bhubaneswar shall do well in completing the issue of renewal of passport involving the petitioner within a week thereafter.
In the result, the writ petition succeeds. No cost”.
Case Title: Asutosh Amrit Patnaik v. State of Orissa & Ors.
Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 4834 of 2022
Judgment Dated: 23 March 2022
Coram: Justice Biswana Rath
 Section 6 in The Passports Act, 1967
6. Refusal of passports, travel documents. etc.—
(2) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the passport authority shall refuse to issue a passport or travel document for visiting any foreign country under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 5 on any one or more of the following grounds, and on no other ground, namely:—
(f) that proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the applicant are pending before a criminal court in India;
 I.L.R. (2018) M.P.677
 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 3437
 2021 SCC OnLine MP2326