‘Trial court’s nod not needed for renewal of passport if criminal case is stayed by higher courts’

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Permission from the trial court is not required for renewal of the passport of an accused when the higher court has stayed the criminal proceeding pending in the trial court, ruled the High Court of Karnataka.

The condition for seeking trial court’s permission by the accused person for renewal of passport as per the notification issued in 1993 by the Ministry of External Affairs does not arise if the proceedings before the trial court is stayed, the High Court made it clear.

Justice Krishna S. Dixit passed the order on a petition filed by Kasturi R.H., a resident of Bengaluru, who is facing a criminal proceeding in a case of allegedly cheating a public sector bank in a transaction related to a company in which she is a director.

“The notification dated August, 25, 1993, purportedly issued under Section 22 of the Passport Act, 1967, normally expects an order of the kind and this norm is applicable in ordinary circumstances, in the sense that the criminal proceedings are not stayed and hands of the trial judge are free to work, and not in the circumstances that have tied his hands. A contention to the contrary amounts to asking the citizen to do an impossible act,” the court observed.

The High Court also clarified that when all further proceedings in the criminal case are interdicted by a higher court, this notification cannot be pressed into service to deny petitioner’s request for renewal/re-issuance of passport, only on the ground that a criminal case is pending.

Meanwhile, the High Court declined to accept the contention made on behalf of the petitioner that proceedings cannot be said to be pending till the presence of the accused after issuance of notice post-cognizance stage.

The criminal proceedings remain pending, notwithstanding there being a stay by the higher court, which has put them in suspended animation, the court clarified.

While asking the Regional Passport Officer to consider application of the petitioner for renewal of passport, the court imposed a condition that petitioner cannot travel abroad without the leave of the court concerned.

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