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Nearly two decades after the Babri Masjid demolition, the incident continues to haunt Sadhvi Ritambhara, one of the accused in the case.

The VHP leader has blamed the Centre for marking her out as a suspect by renewing her passport for one year instead of the usual practice of 10 years, hampering her frequent visits abroad for religious discourses.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher on Tuesday asked the Centre to accord a personal hearing to the Sadhvi and pass a reasoned order on her plea. “The present petition be treated as a representation by the Regional Passport Office of the external affairs ninistry and a reasoned order be passed within three days after the representation is made. The petitioner be given a personal hearing,” the HC directed central government counsel Sumeet Pushkarna.

Ritambhara, who is facing trial along with various others including veteran BJP leader L K Advani in the Babri mosque demolition case, has contended that the Passport Act provides that it would be issued to a person for a period of 10 years and later, it can be renewed or extended for the same period.

The Regional Passport Office (RPO), which initially issued her the passport in 1991 for 10 years, however, extended it only by one year on August 3, 2009 and in May 2012, she said in her plea. “The extension of a passport for a shorter time (one year) is an infringement of Sadhvi’s right under Article 21 (Right to life) of the Constitution which also includes right to unfettered travel without any unlawful limitations of time…

“A citizen’s right to go abroad cannot be limited or curtailed unless there is a law made by the state prescribing the procedure for so depriving her and the deprivation is effected strictly in accordance with such procedure,” the petition argues. The VHP leader, who was at the forefront of the BJP campaign on Babri mosque-Ram Janam Bhoomi row, said she has been implicated in the case.

Ritambhara sought direction to the Centre for issuing her a passport for 10 years saying its shorter validity makes it difficult for her to seek visa from foreign missions here.

“The extension of a passport for one year at a time is harassment as it takes substantial time for obtaining a visa to several countries. Some countries entertain a visa application only if the passport of the applicant is valid for six months from the date of proposed travel…,” the petition said.

Once in a year, Sadhvi has to visit the RPO office for extension of her passport and it is a time-consuming act, it said, adding, “the extension of passport for a shorter duration was arbitrary”.

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