The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would hear in January a petition challenging the constitutional validity of a provision of passport law and a notification providing for issuance of passport for only a year to an accused on receipt of a 'no objection certificate' from a court.
The matter came up for hearing before a bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose and the counsel appearing for the petitioner said it be listed for hearing on a non-miscellaneous day.
"You want to argue on the validity of the law. It will take some time," the bench told the advocate appearing for petitioner and lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
"Yes. We can have it on a non-miscellaneous day," the counsel told the bench which posted the matter for hearing in January next year.
The apex court had in February 2016 issued notices to the Centre and Regional Passport Office at Ghaziabad on the plea filed by Bhushan who gets passport for a period of only one year on account of some FIRs lodged against him for allegedly taking part in protests and 'dharna'.
Bhushan has filed an appeal in the top court against the Delhi High Court's January 2016 verdict which had rejected his plea against the provision of the Passport Act.
"Petitioner had challenged the constitutional validity of section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act, 1967 which states that passport shall not be issued/reissued to a person accused of committing any offence," the plea has said.
"The blanket prohibition in section 6(2)(f) has been partially lifted vide a notification issued in 1993 which states that passport may be issued/reissued if the applicant produces an NOC from the court concerned and if no period is mentioned in the NOC, then the passport shall be issued/ reissued for only one year. The petitioner had also challenged the constitutional validity of this notification," it said.
Bhushan's counsel had in 2016 told the top court that the concerned provision does not make distinction between serious and not so serious offences and puts equal restriction on accused in getting new or renewed passport and it is violative of right to equality.
"Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act is in violation of Article 14 as it fails to distinguish between a person who is accused of having committed a serious crime and a person who is accused of a minor offence," the plea has said.
"By imposing the same restriction for all those against whom a criminal case may be pending before any court, Section 6(2)(f) treats unequals as equals and thereby violates the equality clause of Article 14 of the Constitution of India," it said.
The plea has also said that by not granting Bhushan "a full validity passport of 10 years, the respondents (Centre and others) have acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner, violating the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India".
Bhushan has said in his plea that he had taken part in a protest in Delhi against the coal scam on August 26, 2012 and though it was "non-violent" and "within his right to freedom of speech and expression", a few cases were lodged against him by police for alleged violation of certain prohibitory orders.
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