The Delhi High Court has held that a person’s decision to seek political asylum in a foreign country in the past can’t be a valid ground for denying him an Indian passport.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru said that applying for political asylum may result in bad publicity for a country “but that does not mean that same is prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India” and “said action cannot be considered as a ground for denying passports”.
The court made the observation in its judgement on the petitions of three men – Kulvir Singh, Inderdeep Chamber and Bhupinder Singh Nijjar – who had applied for political asylum in European countries while they were overseas.
They were thereafter, denied passports for five years on the ground that they “are likely to engage in activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
While Kulvir and Bhupinder had sought asylum in Austria, Inderdeep had applied for political refuge in Germany.
“However depreciable the action of petitioners in applying for political asylum may be, the same does not fall within the scope of ‘activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India’.
“The the said action cannot be considered as a ground for denying passports to the petitioners,” the court said and directed the authorities to “process the applications filed by the petitioners for issuance of passports”.
It also clarified that the expression ‘activities prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India’, “must be read to mean activities that are derogatory to and/or could possibly result in affecting, the sovereignty and integrity of India”.
The court set aside the decisions of the Chief Passport Officer to deny passports to the three, saying “a passport cannot be denied as a punition for the past acts”.