Passport applications cannot be rejected summarily on the ground that the applicants are facing criminal cases. Instead, Regional Passport Officers must ask the applicants to approach the court concerned and obtain orders permitting them to travel abroad, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.

Justice T.S. Sivagnanam was disposing of a writ petition filed by a murder case accused against the rejection of his passport renewal application by the Madurai Regional Passport Office on the ground that the Ramanathapuram Superintendent of Police had opined against it till the case was disposed of.

The judge pointed out that the Centre had issued a notification on August 25, 1993 permitting issuance of passports to those facing criminal charges provided they produced court order permitting them to travel abroad. Such a notification was issued by invoking the powers conferred on the Centre under Section 22 (a) of the Passport Act.

Following this notification, the Bombay High Court had, in 1997, quashed an order passed by a Passport Officer refusing to issue passport to an accused in a criminal case. It had held that it would be the duty of the passport authorities to bring the relevant notification to the attention of the applicants. In the present case, Mr. Justice Sivagnanam directed the petitioner to approach a sessions court, which was told to decide the matter on merits.