Skip to content


J.R. Parikh Vs. the Director (Pv) Chief Passport Officer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Appeal No. 248 of 1969
Judge
Reported inILR1970Delhi378
ActsPassport Act, 1967 - Sections 5(2); Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 417
AppellantJ.R. Parikh
RespondentThe Director (Pv) Chief Passport Officer and ors.
Advocates: J. Ramamurthy,; O.P. Malhotra and; V.S. Bhatnagar, Advs
Cases ReferredSatwant Singh v. Assistant Passport Officer
Excerpt:
.....and submitted that the use of the word 'offence' in singular was significant, and the said use of the word in singular shows that it was intended by the provision, that the applicant should have been convicted for an offence and sentenced in respect of that particular offence to imprisonment for not less than two years, and where a person like the petitioner has been sentenced for various offences for less than two years for each of the offences, the aggregate of the sentences should not be taken into consideration......single offence which involved moral turpitude but was sentenced to imprisonment for less than two years, clause (e) would not be applicable, and the issue of a passport cannot be refused to him on the ground mentioned in clause (e). it is, thereforee, reasonable to hold that the same would be the position if the applicant had committed a number of offences involving moral turpitude for each of which he was sentenced to imprisonment for less than two years, because he has not committed 'any offence' involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years within the meaning of clause (e). in my opinion, the intention of the legislature in enacting the provision in clause (e) seems to be that it is only when the applicant had committed an offence involving moral.....
Judgment:

V.R. Tatachari, J.

(1) This writ petition has been filed by Sri J. R. Parikh praying (1) for the issuance of a writ of cartiorari quashing an order, dated 21st February, 1969, passed by the Director (PV) and Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, confirming an order, dated 5th November, 1968, passed by the, Regional Passport Officer, Madras, rejecting an application, dated 14th August, 1968, filed by the petitioner for a passport and (2) for a direction or a writ of Mandamus directing the aforesaid officers to grant the passport applied for by the petitioners. The respondents in the writ petition are (1) the Director (PV) and Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, and (2) the Regional Passport Officer, Madras

(2) According to the petitioner, he has been doing business in Madras of import and export in general, and more particularly of export of timber and other articles, under the name and style of 'M/s Commodity Sales Corporation'. He was holding an international passport, and had travelled twice to the Continent in 1957 and 1958. But, the said passport facilities were withdrawn by the Regional Passport Officer, Madras, in 1960. Finding it expedient and necessary to visit certain foreign countries in connection with his timber export business, the petitioner wrote to the authorities concerned requesting for the restoration of his passport. But, the said request was not graned on the ground that the petitioner was facing a criminal trial in Madras.

(3) The petitioner was charged with several offences, and the Special Judge, Madras, by his judgment in Calendar Case No. 2 of 1961, dated 24th March, 1964, convicted and sentenced the petitioner to varying terms of imprisonment which were to run concurrently. The petitioner filed an appeal, Criminal Appeal No. 206 of 1964, in the High Court of Madras, and the High Court, by its judgment, dated 22nd December, 1967, upheld the conviction of the petitioner only in respect of some of the offences, viz. charges Nos. 5 to 9 and 16, and acquitted him of the other charges. Charge No. 5 was under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code for cheating the Customs officials and the officials of the clearing agents and the Bank of Mysore at Cochin by misrepresenting to them that the goods covered by the bill of entry were dyeing and tanning substances duly covered by a valid import license, though in truth the goods were ultra marine blue, the import of which was not permitted. Charges Nos. 6 to 9 were similar charges in respect of ultra marine blue imported at Tuticorin. Charge No. 16 was under section 417 of the Indian Penal Code in respect of export of groundnut oil cake at Vaizagapatnam port. The trial Court (Special Judge, Madras) sentenced the petitioner to imprisonment for 18 months under section 420 of the Indian Penal Code on each of the charges Nos. 5 to 9, and to imprisonment for 8 months under section 417 on charge No. 16, and the sentences were to run concurrently. But, on appeal, the High Court reduced the sentence of imprisonment to a period of 6 months for each of the charges Nos. 5 and 6, 2 months for charge No. 7, 4 months for charge No. 8, 2 months for charge No. 9 and 6 months for charge No. 16, and all the sentences were to run concurrently. It has to be noted that the various periods of imprisonment for each of the charge came to a total of 26 months, but the said periods of imprisonment were directed to run concurrently.

(4) The petitioner submitted an application on 14th August, 1968, to the 2nd respondent for passport facilities in order to proceed to the countries in Middle East and Europe, United States of America, Canada and U.S.S.R. for the purposes of his business. The application was rejected on 5th November. 1968, by the 2nd respondent under section 6(2)(e) of the Passport Act, 1967. The relevant portion of section 6(2) runs as under :-

'6.Refusal of Passports, travel documents, etc.- (1) ................ (2) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, the passport authority shall refuse to issue a passport or travel document for visiting any foreign country under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 5 on any one or more of the following grounds, and on no other ground, namely:- (e) that the applicant has. at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the date of his application, been convicted by a Court in India for any offence involving moral furpitude and sentenced in respect thereof to imprisonment for not less than two years.'

(5) Section 5(2)(c) mentioned in section 6(2) reads as under:-

'5.Applications for passports, travel documents, etc. and orders thereon: (2) On receipt of an application, the Passport authority, after making such enquiry, if any, as it may consider necessary, shall subject to the other provisions of this Act, by order in writing,- (c) refuse to issue the passport or travel document or, as the case may be, refuse to make on the passport or travel document any endorsement.'

(6) Respondent No. 2 took the view that the case of the petitioner was covered by section 6(2) (e), and rejected his application for that reason. Against that order, the petitioner preferred an appeal on 19th November, 1968, to the 1st respondent on the grounds that the order of the 2nd respondent was contrary to law, and that the 2nd respondent erred in holding that section 6(2)(e) applied to his case. The contention of the petitioner was that for no single offence was there a sentence of imprisonment for 2 years or more, and the maximum sentence imposed on him for any offence was only imprisonment for six months,, and that the provisions in section 6(2)(e) of the Passports Act, 1967, was not, thereforee, applicable to his case. By his order, dated 21st February, 1969, the 1st respondent rejected the appeal, taking the view that the petitioner had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of more than 2 years, that the offences in respect of which he had been convicted were offences involving moral turpitude, and that the fact that the sentences of imprisonment were to run concurrently would not militate against the fact that he was sentenced for a total of 26 months. Aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner has filed the present writ petition praying that the aforesaid orders of the 1st respondent and the 2nd respondent may be quashed, and that a direction or a writ in the nature of Mandamus be issued to the 1st and 2nd respondents to grant the passport to the petitioner.

(7) Shri Ramamurthi, learned counsel for the petitioner,, contended that the respondents erred in holding that the offences in respect of which the petitioner was convicted were offences involving moral turpitude. that though the sentences of imprisonment passed against the petitioner were to run concurrently, the same would not militate against the fact that he was sentenced for a total period of 26 months for all the offences, and that in view of the provision in section 6(2)(e) of the Passport Act, no passport could be issued in favor of the petitioner. The relevant provisions in sections 5(2)(c) and 6(2)(e) have already been set out above. Section 5(2)(c) provides for the refusal to issue a passport, and section 6(2) provides that subject to the other provisions of the Act, the Passport Authority should refuse to issue a passport for visiting any foreign country under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 5 on any one or more of the grounds set out in the various clauses of sub-section (2) of section 6, and on no other ground. The ground on which the respondents I and 2 refused to grant a passport to the petitioner was the ground in clause (e) of section 6(2). The said clause (e) contains three requirements, viz., that the applicant has :-

(I)at any time during the period of live years immediately preceding the date of his application, (ii) been convicted by a Court in India for any offence involving moral turpitude, and (iii) sentenced in respect thereof to imprisonment for not less than two years.

(8) It is only when all the three requirements are fulfillled, that the Passport Authority can refuse to issue a passport on the ground mentioned in clause (e). The question for consideration is as to whether the three requirements have been fulfillled in the present case. The first argument of Shri Ramamurthi was that the offences for which the petitioner was convicted were not offences involving moral turpitude. This argument cannot be accepted. Even according to his own averments in the writ petition, the petitioner was prosecuted and convicted for offences of cheating punishable under sections 417 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code. Under charge 5, he was charged under section 420 for cheating the Customs officials and the officials of the clearing agents and the Bank of Mysore at Cochin by misrepresenting to them that the goods covered by the bill of entry were dyeing and tanning substances duly covered by a valid import license, though in truth the goods were ultra marine blue, the import of which was not permitted. The petitioner admitted that the charges No. 6 to 9 were similar charges. He also admitted that charge No. 16 was under section 417, in respect of the export of ground-nut oil-cake at Vizagapatam Port. The term 'moral turpitude' has 'not been defined in the Passport Act. 'Moral' according to Pocket Oxford Dictionary means 'conforming to or required or justified by consciousness, if not law' and 'turpitude', according to the said Dictionery, means 'baseness'. The offences for which the petitioner was convicted under charges 5 to 9 were not merely charges of un-authorised import and export, but were charges of cheating the Customs officials and other officials by misrepresenting to them. Cheating, on the face of it, involves moral turpitude. The offences for which the petitioner was prosecuted and convicted were clearly offences involving moral turpitude within the meaning of clause (e) of sub-section 2 of section 6 of the Passport Act.

(9) The second argument of Shri Ramamurthi was that in order to attract section 6(2)(e) the applicant for the passport should have been convicted during the relevant period for an offence and sentenced in respect of that particular offence to imprisonment for not less than two years, and that in the present case the petitioner was convicted for 6 offences, and for no one of those offences was he sentence to imprisonment for more than 6 months, much less two years,, and thereforee, section 6(2)(e) in terms did not apply to the petitioner's case. Shri Ramamurthi laid emphasis on the words 'convicted for any offence. ..... and sentenced in respect thereof, and submitted that the use of the word 'offence' in singular was significant, and the said use of the word in singular shows that it was intended by the provision, that the applicant should have been convicted for an offence and sentenced in respect of that particular offence to imprisonment for not less than two years, and where a person like the petitioner has been sentenced for various offences for less than two years for each of the offences, the aggregate of the sentences should not be taken into consideration. On the other hand, Shri Malhotra contended that by virtue of the provision in section 13 of the General Clauses Act, the word 'offence' in the singular has to be construed as including the plural unless there is nothing repugnant in the subject or context, and that the word 'offence' used in clause (e) would include offences in plural, and thereforee it should be held in the present case that the petitioner was convicted for 6 offences and sentenced in respect there of to imprisonment for not less than two years taking the total of the sentences for all the offences, even though the sentences were directed to run concurrently. In my opinion, the interpretation suggested by Shri Ramamurthi has to be accepted. It is now settled by the decision of the Supreme Court in Satwant Singh v. Assistant Passport Officer, Delhi, : [1967]3SCR525 , that a citizen of India has ordinarily a right to the grant of a passport. However, section 6 of the Passport Act, 1967, empowers the passport authority to refuse the issue of a passport on the ground, amongst others, mentioned in clause (e) of sub-section (2) of section 6. The provision in section (e) thus restricts the right of a citizen to the grant of a passport, and as such should be construed strictly. The provision in clause (e) contemplates an offence which involves moral turpitude and deserves a sentence of not less than two years. In other words, for the applicability of clause (e), it is not enough that an offence involved moral turpitude, but it should be of such a gravity as to deserve a sentence of imprisonment for not less than two years. It cannot be disputed that in a case where the applicant had committed a single offence which involved moral turpitude but was sentenced to imprisonment for less than two years, clause (e) would not be applicable, and the issue of a passport cannot be refused to him on the ground mentioned in clause (e). It is, thereforee, reasonable to hold that the same would be the position if the applicant had committed a number of offences involving moral turpitude for each of which he was sentenced to imprisonment for less than two years, because he has not committed 'any offence' involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years within the meaning of clause (e). In my opinion, the intention of the legislature in enacting the provision in clause (e) seems to be that it is only when the applicant had committed an offence involving moral turpitude which deserves a sentence of imprisonment for not less than two years that he should be refused the grant of a passport. If my view is correct, it follows that even where the applicant had committed a number of offences involving moral turpitude, but was sentenced for each of the said offences to imprisonment for less than two years, it is the sentence for each offence that has to be taken into consideration for the purpose of the applicability of clause (e), and not the aggregate of the sentences for the various offences, and it is immaterial whether the sentences have been directed to run concurrently or consecutively. That is the plain and literal meaning of the words used in clause (e), and there is no valid reason for giving them an extended meaning as contended for by Shri Malhotra, In the present case, though the offences for which the petitioner was convicted involved moral turpitude, for no offence was he sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. Respondents 1 and 2 were, thereforee, in error in taking the aggregate of the sentences for the various offences awarded by the High Court and refusing to grant a passport to the petitioner on the ground that the aggregate of the sentences was 26 months i.e. more than two years and clause (e) was attracted to the petitioner's case. Their orders are, thereforee, liable to be quashed on this ground, as they were passed on a wrong interpretation of clause (e) of sub-section (2) of section 6 of the Passport Act.

(10) The third argument of Shri Ramamurthi was that clause (e) requires that the applicant should have been convicted and sentenced at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding the date of his application, that the petitioner was convicted by the Special Judge, Madras, by his judgment, dated 24th March, 1964, in Calendar Case No. 2 of 1961, that the date of conviction was thus 24th march, 1964, within the meaning of section 6(2)(e) of the Act, that the order of the High Court, dated 22nd December, 1967, was not an order of conviction from the date of which the period of five years should be calculated, as the High Court merely confirmed the conviction but reduced the sentence, and that since the period of five years calculated from 24th March, 1964, had elapsed on 24th March, 1969, the petitioner became entitled to a passport in any even from and after 24th March, 1969. This contention was not raised by the petitioner in the writ petition, which was filed on 2nd April. 1968. It was raised for the first time in the rejoinder filed by the petitioner. It was stated therein that subsequent to the admission of the writ petition, the petitioner wrote to Shri K. S. Pandalai, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Law Government of India, New Delhi, on 29th May, 1969, staling that without prejudice to his rights mentioned in the writ petition, he was entitled to the passport facilities in any event, as the conviction in his case was on 24th March, 1964, and the period of five years prescribed in section 6(2)(e) of the Passport Act, 1967, had already expired on 24th March, 1969, that he received a letter, dated 9th July, 1969, from Shri K. B. Bala, Under Secretary, stating that the effective date of conviction was the date on which the Madras High Court delivered its judgment, namely, 22nd December, 1967, and not 24th March, 1964. and, thereforee, the petitioner's case fell within the purview of section 6(2)(e) of the Act, and that the request for the passport facilities was thus rejected by the said letter. This contention of Shri Ramamurthi cannot be considered in this writ petition, as the order, dated 9th July. 1969, rejecting the application of the petitioner dated 29th May, 1969, was passed subsequent to the filing of the writ petition and was not, thereforee, the subject matter of the writ petition.

(11) In the view taken by me that section 6(2)(e) is not attracted to the case of the petitioner. I allow the writ petition, and quash the orders of respondents 1 and 2, dated 21st February, 1969, and 5th November, 1968, respectively.

(12) In the circumstances of the case, I make no orders as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //