Inside Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeks response from Central Government

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) High Court on Monday sought the response of the Central government and the Union Territory of J&K on a petition by president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti seeking directions to the government and police authorities to issue passport to her (Mehbooba Mufti v. Union of India and Ors).

A single-judge Bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey issued notice to the respondents on Mufti’s plea alleging failure on the part of authorities to process her passport application for want of police verification within the deadline prescribed by the Central government guidelines.

The pendency of writ petition shall not form any impediment for the police agency to expedite the verification, the Court clarified.

According to the petition, Mufti’s passport had expired on May 31, 2019.

She had, therefore, applied for renewal of passport which was received on the file of Passport Officer on December 11, 2020.

After the receipt of the application, complete in all respects, the Passport Officer sought police verification from Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), District Srinagar.

Since, the police verification did not happen for a whole month, she submitted a representation to the SSP stating that as per the Central government guidelines, police verification has to be completed within 21 days.

The representation, Mufti claimed in her petition, was received by the SSP on February 13.

“That the inaction on the part of the ADGP and SSP in not forwarding the police verification to that of(sic) passport officer is not countenanced by law. It is submitted here that administrative delay is a facet of arbitrariness and against the rule of law. Submitting of police verification report cannot be left to the sole discretion of the authority,” Mufti contended.

Mufti’s counsel, advocates Jahangir Iqbal Ganai and Humaira Shafi, submitted that the petitioner while availing the tracking facility on the Passport Officer’s website, came to know about the status of passport as “Pending for physical verification at respective Thana under SP office, District Srinagar”.

The petitioner approached Superintendent of Police on 13th of February, 2021 with the request to forward the police report to passport office but till date the status of the passport of the petitioner on the available portal of the passport office shows the same. Therefore, the petitioner had no option but to approach the High Court for the relief, it was added.

Mufti contended that the right to travel abroad is a facet of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution and it cannot be curtailed except in accordance with the procedure established by law.

“The delay occasioned in issuing the passport in favour of the Petitioner and thereto in restraining the Petitioner from travelling abroad is not only illegal but violates with impunity the mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the petition filed through M/S Jahangir Ganai Law Associates stated.

The notice was received by Assistant Solicitor General of India, TM Shamsi on behalf of the Central government and Passport Officer whereas BA Dar received on behalf of the Union Territory of J&K, Addl. Director General of Police (CID) and Sr. Superintendent of Police, Srinagar.

The respondents have to file their replies within two weeks. The case will be heard again on March 23.


Via Bar & Bench
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