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The Passports Act: An Overview
After the judgement in the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam (1967 SC), it became imperative to have a law that could regulate the issuance of passports and travel documents. Although Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to free movement, restricting it is viewed as a flagrant violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. As a sort of positive reinforcement, the Passports Act was passed to regulate this and bar the issuance of passports to anyone who would imperil the sovereignty and honour of the nation. The President promulgated the "Indian Passport Ordinance, 1967" as Parliament was not in session at that time and the ordinance was later replaced by the Passports Act, 1967. The Act came into force with a retrospective effect from May 5th, 1967. This articles makes an attempt to briefly understand the provisions of this Act.
What does Passports Act Define?
The Passport Act of 1967 has been put into effect to ensure that there is law and order governing the issuance of a valid document or passport so that a person may travel to another nation without risking harm, damage, or loss of any kind. In other words, a passport serves as proof of nationality. The Act lays down the provisions regarding procedure for grant of passports, grounds for refusal or revocation of passports, offences, appeals and other similar matters.
Requirement of Passport
Section 3 of the Act lays down a general prohibition that no person can depart from India or attempt to depart from India unless he holds a valid passport or travel document.
Kinds of Passports and Travel Documents
Section 4 of the Act mentions certain classes of passports and travel documents that are issued under the Act. There are three types of passports issued under the Act, namely −
The Act also governs the issuance of travel documents, which are basically identification documents. The different types of travel documents are −
A certificate of identity used to verify a person's identity.
An emergency certificate authorising a person to enter India
Application for Passports and Travel Documents
Section 5 of the Act provides that an application for the issue of a passport may be made to the passport authority and it also mentions the procedural formalities that are required with the application. On receipt of the application, the authorities may issue the passport or travel document or refuse to issue it.
The passport authority may refuse to issue a passport or travel document on the following grounds −
The applicant may engage in activities which are prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
The presence of an applicant in such a country may be detrimental to the security of India.
The presence of an applicant in such a country may be prejudicial to the friendly relations of India with such a country or any other country.
The presence of an applicant in such a country is not in the public interest, in the opinion of the central government.
The applicant is not a citizen of India, etc.
Section 7 specifies that the time limit for passports and travel documents differs for different classes of documents. It may also be issued for a shorter period, which may be extended for a further period under Section 8.
Revocation or impounding of a passport
Under Section 10 of the Act, passports and travel documents may be impounded or revoked on the following grounds −
The passport holder is in illegal possession of it.
A passport was obtained by providing false or concealing material information.
It is necessary to do so in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India and the friendly relations of India with any foreign country.
It is necessary to do so in the interest of the general public.
The passport holder has been convicted of any offence involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years.
If any condition of the passport has been contravened, etc.
Section 12 of the Act provides punishment for different offences under the Act. The punishment is imprisonment for up to two years or a fine of up to five thousand rupees or both.
A person aggrieved by the decision of a passport authority may prefer an appeal to the appellate authority specified and within the time period as may be prescribed. No appeal can be made against an order of the Central Government.
Power of Arrest, Search, and Seizure
Any custom officer, police officer, or emigration officer not below the rank of sub-inspector has power of arrest, search, and seizure under the Act against any person whom he suspects to have committed any offence under Section 12 of the Act.
Ownership of Passports
As per section 17 of the Act, passports and travel documents shall always remain the property of the Central Government.
The Passports Act, 1967 provides an efficient regime for granting passports in India. The legislation is in place to ensure that residents have the freedom to move about without running into any issues. This action facilitates the citizen's travel to another nation for purposes of study, employment, or other pertinent tasks.
But, it has been observed that it's very simple for people to obtain passports by fraudulent ways, which is one of the biggest issues faced by the nation. Despite the strong laws and regulations, it still exists today. There needs to be a comprehensive legal framework to deal with such evasion of the law. It becomes the duty of the concerned authorities to implement the provisions of the Act and keep a close watch on the procedure of granting a passport to any person. At the same time, it also has to be ensured that the procedure for revocation/ refusal/ grant of passport is fair, reasonable, just and non-arbitrary. Thus, a need of maintaining a balance becomes quite imperative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Is the Act related to Indian Constitution?
Ans: In the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam (1967 SC), the apex court held that the right to travel abroad is a fundamental right under Article 21 and the government has no right to refuse the issuance of a passport to a person who applied for it.
In order to travel outside India, one needs to have a passport or valid documents. In order to ensure the genuineness of the procedure, the Act was implemented to lay down the law regarding the issue of passports. Thus, the Act governs the right of citizens to travel freely without any damage, loss, or problem.
The Act also conforms to Article 9 of the Constitution of India, which does not allow dual citizenship. The Act requires a person to surrender his passport if he has acquired citizenship of some other country.
Q2. Who does issue passports in India?
Ans: A passport issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India to Indian citizens for overseas travel.
Q3. What is the benefit of a passport?
Ans: A passport permits international travel and serves as identification of Indian citizenship in accordance with the Passports Act (1967).
Q4. Can passport be issued to a non-citizen under the Act?
Ans: Section 21 of the Act regulates the issue of passports and travel documents to people who are not citizens of India. A passport or any travel document may be issued to a person who is not a citizen of India if the Central Government opines that it is necessary to do so in the public interest.
Q5. Is using someone else’s passport illegal in India?
Ans: Yes. Section 12 of the Act provides punishment for a person who knowingly allows another person to use a passport or travel document issued to him
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