Surrender of a passport can be ordered to ensure the presence of parties in contempt proceedings

With the decision in Maneka Gandhi Case, 1978, Freedom to move freely was said to be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. This provides that a person is liberal to move within the territory of India or outside it, with subject to reasonable restrictions and the Passport Authority cannot restrict anyone on baseless contentions.

Keeping the above-stated statement in view, the Supreme Court of India has added one more restriction under the umbrella of reasonable restrictions. The Supreme Court on March 19, 2020, in the case of, Shyam Sahni V/s Arjun Parkash & Others, said, “ In order to ensure the presence of the parties in the contempt proceedings, the Court is empowered to pass appropriate orders including the surrender of passport”. The bench comprised of Justices R. Banumathi and AS Bopanna.

This decision was given by the bench in an appeal case, which was originally filed in the High Court to seek a declaration, permanent injunction and possession of the suit property. The Single Judge granted an interim injunction restraining the defendants from selling, alienating or creating any third party rights in the suit property. Alleging disobedience of the injunction order by the defendants, the Single Judge directed the defendant to deposit his passport and made an order restraining him from leaving India. But later, the Division Bench set aside the order of Single Judge. And on the appeal, the Supreme Court has upheld the order of the Single Judge and considered such restrictions as valid and legal.

The Court while adjudicating the case, put a reference of Section 10(3) of The Passport Act, 1967, specifically, which states conditions for impounding of the passports by the authorities and among them sub-clause (e) states- if proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the holder of the passport or travel document are pending before a criminal court in India; in such a situation also the passport could be impounded.