CHENNAI: Directing foreign nationals, in the instant case Sri Lankan Tamils facing criminal charges to surrender their passports when they do not have passports, is redundant, Justice P Devadass of Madras High Court observed and modified his own order of February 23.
Ramesh and Kehteeswaran alias Arul were arrested in connection with a passport racket busted by the Q Branch police. They were charged for offences under various sections of the IPC, Foreigners Act and Indian Passport Act. They applied for bail and Justice Devadass, granting the relief on January 22 last, directed them to surrender their passports to the Q Branch police.
They again moved the Court to relax this condition. Their counsel submitted that during the ethnic strife in the island, many had fled to India and landed Tamil Nadu by boat. The government housed them in camps, provided them food, shelter, clothes, certain basic amenities and rehabilitated them.
Since they did not have passports, they could not comply with the condition imposed by the Court, the counsel said and prayed for relaxation.
The Judge observed that criminals are of several categories such as natives, foreigners, refugees and stateless persons. The principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution is universal in its application to all. So also the right to liberty guaranteed in Article 21.
However, the personal freedom guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution was available only to citizens.
So far as the application of criminal law was concerned, there should not be any disparity between citizens and non-citizens. In criminal court, there could not be discrimination between them. But, it was a fact that when the accused persons have connections abroad, the courts used to direct them to surrender their passports. But when there was no passport, imposing such a condition was impractical, the Judge said.
Bail orders are passed to enable the accused to come out of jail. In this case, the order was passed on January 21. But, still the petitioners remained in jail. In these circumstances, the condition requiring them to surrender passports alone is deleted, the Judge said and accordingly modified his earlier order.