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Protesting farmers face passport visa cancellation what the law says

The police authorities in Haryana’s Ambala district have warned of initiating a process to cancel passports and visas of those individuals involved in breaking barricades and violence at the Shambhu and Khanauri borders of Punjab during the recent farmer agitation.

However, passports or visas cannot be cancelled or impounded without following due process as laid down under provisions of the Passport Act 1967.

“Through CCTV and drone cameras and through videography, we have identified such persons who indulged in breaking barricades or causing disturbances. We have taken a lot of photographs too, in which they are seen vandalising (properties) and causing disturbance,” Joginder Sharma, cricketer-turned DSP of Haryana Police, said.

According to law, police authorities do not have powers to arbitrarily bypass the MEA and cancel passports. Moreover, visas are issued through the embassy of the concerned country.

HOW, AND WHEN CAN PASSPORTS BE CANCELLED?

Under the Passport Act 1967, the passport authority may impound or revoke a passport or travel document under Section 10A and 10 B.

As per the Act, a passport may be impounded if the “passport authority deems it necessary so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the public”.

The law also lays down the following reasons:

National Security concerns: If an individual’s activities pose a threat to national security, authorities may revoke their passport. However, participation in peaceful protests alone is unlikely to meet the threshold for such action unless there is evidence of involvement in unlawful or subversive activities.

Criminal offences: Passports may be revoked if an individual is charged with certain criminal offences, including those related to fraud, terrorism, or other serious crimes. Breaking barricades at protest sites may lead to charges of unlawful assembly or breach of public order, but the severity of such offences may vary.

Misuse of passport: If a passport is obtained fraudulently or is being misused for illegal activities, authorities have the right to cancel it. However, proving misuse requires thorough investigation and due process.

While the Indian Passport Act provides a legal framework for passport revocation, the process is not straightforward. It involves several steps and safeguards to prevent arbitrary or unjust actions.

Investigation and evidence: Before revoking a passport, authorities conduct a thorough investigation and gather evidence to substantiate their claims. This ensures that decisions are based on facts rather than just allegations.

Notice and hearing: Individuals facing passport revocation must be given adequate notice and an opportunity to present their case before a competent authority. This principle of natural justice safeguards against arbitrary or unfair decisions.

Judicial review: If an individual disagrees with the decision to revoke their passport, they have the right to seek judicial review. This allows for independent scrutiny of the decision to ensure it complies with legal principles and constitutional rights.

Appeal process: The Indian Passport Act also provides for an appeal process, allowing aggrieved individuals to challenge passport revocation decisions through higher authorities or courts.

Given these legal complexities and safeguards, the Haryana Police’s threat to cancel or revoke the passports of protestors raises concerns about due process and the protection of fundamental rights.

“The right to travel and hold a passport is a fundamental right under article 19. Have the farmers committed a crime? It is a trespass at best. Does the police lack confidence in its governance? Being part of a protest or a morcha or even a bank fraud is not a danger to the state,” advocate Colin Gonsalves said.

Published By:

Abhishek De

Published On:

Mar 2, 2024

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