New Delhi, May 4 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has stayed the suspension of passport of a man, against whom the action was taken on a complaint by his estranged wife, and directed the Centre to issue him a passport within days of his applying for it.
The court warned that if the passport was not issued to him on any ground that were not valid, 'the concerned officers at the office of the Consulate General of India in Houston, Texas, U.S.A. and in the Regional Passport Office (RPO) in India would be liable to be held personally responsible'.
The directions were issued by Justice Prathiba M Singh who was 'shocked' that despite long drawn correspondence by the man with the Indian Mission in Houston and the RPO at Kozhikode in India, they have not served the suspension order or the denial order to him.
Instead he was 'shuttled' between the RPO and the Indian Mission, the court observed and added that his passport was suspended in 2018 on the basis of a complaint by his wife due to matrimonial disputes for more than two and half years without giving him a hearing.
'The correspondence on record reveals that the petitioner has repeatedly approached various authorities seeking revival of his passport as also for a copy of the denial order, but in vain.
'Even before this court the respondents (Chief Passport Officer and the Centre) have not filed any affidavit or document on record till date, despite having more than five months to do so,' the court noted.
It also noted that not even the Indian Mission or the RPO has filed a single document to show whether it is a case of revocation of passport or suspension of passport and if so on what grounds the action was taken.
'During the COVID-19 pandemic, the petitioner has been unable to travel to India. It is the case of the petitioner that his old mother, who is a widow, lives alone in Bangalore and that he wishes to travel both in the U.S.A. and in India, in relation to his job assignments.
'It is clear that the petitioner is suffering immensely both personally and professionally due to the suspension/revocation of his passport,' the court said.
Both the man and his wife are living in the USA.
Central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul told the court that the petitioner has been permitted to apply afresh for a passport and if he applies, the same would be considered expeditiously.
Digpaul also told the court that due to pandemic the file of this case was also not available and so he could not place any documents on record.
The court, however, said that the petitioner 'cannot be made to live without a passport indefinitely'.
`'This court has given adequate time to the respondents to file an affidavit or documents on record. However, not a single shred of paper has been placed on record.
'The petitioner cannot be made to suffer further especially due to the pandemic that is currently raging which may require him to travel to India to meet his mother who is in India, owing to her age etc,' Justice Singh said.
She directed the man to apply to the Indian Mission for a fresh passport on or before May 6 and ordered that the same shall be processed and a passport issued to him on or before May 15.
'The issuance of the passport shall not, in any manner, be delayed due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions,' the court said.
With these directions, the court listed the man's plea against suspension of his passport on June 3. PTI HMP RKS RKS