Tamil Nadu

HC sets aside order impounding Leena Manimekalai’s passport

The Madras High Court on Friday set aside a September 9 order of the Regional Passport Officer, Chennai impounding the passport of film-maker Leena Manimekalai just because she was facing a criminal defamation complaint lodged by director Susi Ganesan for naming him during the ‘MeToo’ movement.

Justice M. Dhandapani allowed a writ petition filed by her against the order and directed the official to release the passport within a week. He directed the petitioner to cooperate in early completion of the trial in the defamation case by not obtaining unnecessary adjournments and remaining absent during the hearings.

The judge agreed with her counsel Abudukumar Rajarathinam that the RPO had failed to take note that the petitioner was not an accused in any criminal case booked by the police.

Instead, she was only facing a private complaint of criminal defamation at the instance of a private individual and it did not warrant impounding of passport.

“The act of the passport authority appears to be very strange,” the judge remarked and went on to state that the passport authorities seldom invoke the power conferred on them under Section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act of 1967 to impound the passports of those accused of committing heinous offences with far reaching consequences.

However, when it was complained on behalf of Mr. Ganesan that the High Court had earlier ordered completion of trial in the criminal defamation case within three months and yet the petitioner was adopting dilatory tactics, the judge directed both the parties to cooperate in early completion of the trial.

‘Presence not necessary’

Making it clear that it was not necessary for the writ petitioner to be present before the trial court during every hearing, the judge said her counsel should definitely be present during every hearing.

He said the petitioner could submit her travel plan before the trial court if she intended to fly abroad for educational purposes so that the trial court could frame a schedule for hearing.

Whenever her personal presence was required for the trial, the court concerned would issue appropriate summons, he said.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 9:19:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-sets-aside-order-impounding-leena-manimekalais-passport/article37832522.ece

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