'No malafide intent in short-term passport to Prashant Bhushan'

Posted By: IANS
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New Delhi, March 16: The central government on Monday told the Delhi High Court that it has "no malafide intention" in issuing advocate Prashant Bhushan a passport with an year's validity instead of the usual 10 years and the decision was taken as criminal cases are pending against him.

The government told Justice Rajiv Shakdher that the action to issue a short validity passport of one year to Bhushan was completely in conformity with the prevailing provisions of an August 25, 1993 notification.

Short-term passport to Prashant Bhushan

Bhushan has challenged the government's refusal to reissue him a passport with full validity.

Filing an affidavit, an under secretary in the ministry of external affairs, said: "Passport Authority, despite the fact that criminal cases were pending against the petitioner (Bhushan), had never denied the passport facility to him and also at any point of time had no intention to impede, hamper or confine the movement of the petitioner."

Bhushan has contended that merely because a few criminal cases pertaining to being part of an unlawful assembly are pending against him, the government denied him a passport with full validity.

The advocate, also a founding member of India Against Corruption (IAC), had staged a protest in August 2012 against the coal scam. Though the protest was non-violent, police had registered a few cases against IAC members including Bhushan for participating in an assembly which was declared unlawful. The cases are pending in Patiala House court here , the plea said.

Bhushan has also argued that the one-year restriction on reissuing the passport is "arbitrary, unreasonable and also discriminatory" and thus in violation of the constitution's article 14 (equality before law).

As per the plea, Bhushan had applied for renewal/reissue of the passport to the regional passport office in 2014. The government had informed him that in order to get his passport renewed, he needs to first obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from the court where criminal cases are pending against him.

Though the metropolitan magistrate at Patiala House Courts granted him an NOC, he did not specify the duration of validity of the passport, which led to Bhushan being issued the passport on September 12, 2014 - valid only till September 11, 2015.

The government said Bhushan's request for the re-issue of the passport with full validity cannot be acceded to unless the concerned court issues a fresh order in this regard.

The government argued that as per the 1993 notification, a person with a criminal case pending and who applies for the issue or reissue of a passport, has to first obtain a NOC from the court where the case is pending and if the court does not lay down any time period for renewal, then a passport of only one year validity would be issued.

The court posted the matter for April 15.


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