HC imposes Rs1 lakh costs on Amritsar passport officer - ECAS Punjab

HC imposes Rs1 lakh costs on Amritsar passport officer

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Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27

Rapping Amritsar Regional Passport Officer (RPO) for malice and complete neglect of the statutory provisions, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has imposed costs of Rs 1 lakh on it. The amount is to be paid to a woman, whose passport was impounded on the ground that she was declared a proclaimed offender even though the order had ceased to operate upon her being granted bail by the court concerned.

Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill asserted the act of respondent-RPO in impounding the passport had a clear impact on the petitioner's fundamental rights. She was granted bail upon appearing before Ludhiana Judicial Magistrate. As such, the proclamation order ceased to be operative. The fact was well within the knowledge of the respondent-Amritsar RPO.

"The conduct of the proceedings at the end of respondent leading to the passing of the impugned orders stems from malice, giving a complete neglect to the statutory provisions and the settled law on the issue. The instant case is a clear example of the administrative overreach, thereby breaching the very fundamental rights of the petitioner. Hence, the impugned action is highly deprecated," Justice Gill asserted.

The petitioner had earlier told the court that she had shifted to her parental home at New Delhi in March 2013 following serious differences with her husband. She was not aware of his business activities. She was shown as one of the partners in a business firm run by her husband, whereas she had virtually no role to play. To her surprise, she received a letter from a bank at her New Delhi address that she had been declared a proclaimed offender in a cheque bounce matter.

Her counsel added the bank had filed two complaints under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act before the Ludhiana Court mentioning her husband's Amritsar address. But the bank informed the petitioner about proclamation order/proceedings at her Delhi address.

Justice Gill asserted the RPO did not make efforts to enquire about the status of proclamation proceedings. Even otherwise the complaints were under the Negotiable Instruments Act, which was a bailable offence and condition to surrender the passport could not be imposed even by the court. As such, the principle of "audi alteram partem" stood violated as the petitioner was not granted notice or opportunity of hearing.

Describing the RPO's action as void, illegal and violative of the principles of natural justice, Justice Gill added the order stood vitiated in the absence of a prior notice. Quashing the impugned order dated April 23, 2019, Justice Gill directed the respondent to release the passport. For the purpose, he set a 15-day deadline.

from The Tribune https://ift.tt/34IrUtk

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