Vyas Dev Misra, C.J.
1. The petitioners have moved this Court for a direction to the respondents to issue them the passports.
2. The petitioners, who are Muslims, applied for passports on 8th Jan., 1981 to the Passport Officer, Chandigarh. The applications were complete in all respects. They were also supported by verification certificates issued by Miss Shyama Sharma, M.L.A., Nahan, District Sirmur. It may be noticed, that the petitioners are also residents of Nahan, District Sirmur. However, they did not hear anything from the Passport Officer. In Aug 1982, that is, after waiting for about 19 months, they started writing to the Passport Officer reminding him of their passport applications. Nothing moved the Passport Officer. He did not even care to acknowledge their letters. Ultimately, they were forced to knock at the door of this Court.
3. The present petition was filed in the Registry on 14th Dec. 1982. On the same day a copy of the petition was delivered to the Central Government Standing Counsel. The petition came up for admission on 27th Dec. 1982. Rule nisi was issued. The respondents were specifically directed to file the caunter-affidavit, if any, by 7th Jan. 1983 and the matter was directed to be listed for peremptory disposal on 10th Jan, 1983. Mr. Sharma, Central Government Standing Counsel, was directed to keep the full records ready so that the matter could be disposed of. The reason forearly disposal is apparent. The petitioners had waited patiently for practically two years without even getting an acknowledgement of their reminders from the Passport Officer. Moreover, the Court was going to be closed by the end of this week till the first week of March due to winter vacation.
4. Today, when the matter was called, it was found that the respondents have not cared to file any return. The Rule nisi has to be made absolute on this short ground alone. Mr. Sharma has placed before us the records of the passport office with relation to the passport applications of these petitioners. To begin with, he started asking for one month's time and then he cut it down to two weeks. This time was asked for to enable the Passport Officer to take a decision in the, matter.
5. After going through the records, we find that after receipt of the applications, the only action taken by the Passport Officer was to send a letter to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (CID), Himachal Pradesh. Copy of that letter is not on record which has been placed before us but the letter of the D.I.G. (CID), Himachal Pradesh dt. 2nd March 1981 is on the file. It refers to the office letter of the passport office which was dated nil. This letter of the D.I.G. was received on 5th March 1981 as is evident from the seal of the passport office. Thereafter, the whole office, as far as the petitioners are concerned, went into a deep slumber. This case highlights the sheer callousness and indifference of the officials of the passport office for 'unresourceful' persons. It may be noticed that petitioner No. 1 is a tailor by profession whereas petitioner No. 2 is his wife. The record shows that the Passport Officer woke up for the first time on 4th Jan, 1983 when he addressed letters to the Home Secretary, Himachal Pradesh, Simla as well as to the D.I.G. In other words, this petition made him sit up. The Deputy Secretary (Home) has sent copy of his letter to the D.I.G. (CID), Himachal Pradesh. A reference has been made to some letter of the Home Department dt. 19-1-1971. The Deputy Secretary wrote to the D.I.G. that that letter was not traceable in the office. The last letter on the record is dt. 7th Jan. 1983 written by the Passport Officer to the Undersecretary (PV), Ministry of External Affairs, Patiala House Annexe, Tilak Marg, New Delhi,
6. It is not disputed before us, and it is otherwise also beyond the pale of controversy, that every citizen has a right to the passport.
7. It is Section 5 of the Passports Act. 1967 which requires a citizen to apply for the passport in the prescribed form. Under Sub-section (2) of Section 5, the passport authority, after making such enquiry, if any, as it may consider necessary, is duty bound to issue a passport subject to other provisions of this Act. The passport authority has a right under Clause(c) of Sub-section (2) of Section 5 of the Act to refuse to issue the passport. However, Sub-section (3) enjoins upon the passport authority to record in writing a brief statement of reasons for refusing to issue the passport. The passport authority is also duty bound, to furnish to the applicant on demand a copy of the reasons for refusing the passport. The only exception to it is where the passport authority is of the opinion that it will not be in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public to furnish such copy. Section 11 of the Act gives a right of appeal to a person who has been refused a passport or is Otherwise aggrieved by the order passed by the passport authority. This appeal has to be preferred within such period as may be prescribed We are informed that the period prescribed is 30 days.
8. In the instant case the passport authority neither granted nor refused the passport to the petitioners. For a period of two years, as already seated, nothing was done. Whenever a statute enjoins upon an authority to do an act, it is required to be done within a reasonable time. The passport authority, therefore, could not sit on the applications for years together and take away the rights of the citizen to passports. Period of two years, which has elapsed since the petitioners made applications, is much more than reasonable. After going through the record, we find that the only reason for not deciding the applications was refusal of the passport authority to do anything in the matter. By this conduct the passport authority has 'refused passports to the petitioners without anyrhyme or reason in contravention of Section 5(3) of the Act.
9. We, therefore, allow the petition and direct the passport authority to issue the passports to the petitioners within two weeks from today. The petitioners will be entitled to have their costs from the respondents. Lawyer's fee Rs. 300/-.