Passport authorities can’t sit over matters, says court

NEW DELHI, Jan 29:
A special court today rapped passport authorities for “sitting over” matters relating to impounding of or releasing passports and directed them to fix a time-frame to decide on such issues.
“I am constrained to remind the concerned passport authorities that in all such cases they are duty bound to proceed further in the matter as per law i.e. either to proceed to impound the passport or not to impound it. They however cannot simply sit over the matter,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.
His observations came during the hearing of a coal scam case involving Madhya Pradesh-based company Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) in which it had issued a show cause notice on December 15 last year to Passport Officer, Bhopal for adopting lackadaisical attitude on the application of accused Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia seeking return of his passport.
“It is thus incumbent of all the passport authorities to lay down specific time-frame during which necessary action in any matter, be it impounding or release of passport or any other proceedings, are carried out by the concerned officers lest the public at large is made to run here and there or approach the courts of law,” the court said.
It also noted that if passport authorities find that no action needs to be initiated at their end then at least they can return the passport back to the concerned agency.
The court withdrew the show cause notice issued to the Passport Officer, Bhopal after a reply was filed through his counsel submitting that an explanation has been sought from the officer who failed to make proper submissions before the court on the issue during an earlier hearing.
The court further directed the Passport Officer, Bhopal to ensure that whenever any officer is deputed to attend the court proceedings, proper submissions should be made before it.
The court had earlier summoned former coal secretary H C Gupta, then Joint Secretary of Coal K S Kropha, then Director (Coal Allocation-I section) K C Samaria and two officials of KSSPL as accused after refusing to accept CBI’s closure report.
Besides Gupta, Kropha and Samaria, the court had summoned KSSPL’s Managing Director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia and Chartered Accountant Amit Goyal also as accused in the case. These accused were granted bail by the court.
All the accused were summoned for offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 420 (cheating) under the IPC.
Only H C Gupta was summoned for the offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The case pertains to alleged misrepresentation of facts, including inflated net worth, by KSSPL to acquire Thesgora-B/ Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh. (PTI)

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