New Delhi: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said that the passport office has refused to issue a passport to her and her mother on the basis of a report by the J&K Criminal Investigation Department.
“Passport Office refused to issue my passport based on CID’s report citing it as ‘detrimental to the security of India. This is the level of normalcy achieved in Kashmir since Aug 2019 that an ex Chief Minister holding a passport is a threat to the sovereignty of a mighty nation,” Mufti tweeted.
Passport Office refused to issue my passport based on CID’s report citing it as ‘detrimental to the security of India. This is the level of normalcy achieved in Kashmir since Aug 2019 that an ex Chief Minister holding a passport is a threat to the sovereignty of a mighty nation. pic.twitter.com/3Z2CfDgmJy
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) March 29, 2021
Citing provisions of Section 6 (2)(c) of The Passports Act, 1967, which permits authorities to refuse to issue a passport or travel document to an applicant for visiting any foreign country on the grounds that “that the departure of the applicant from India may, or is likely to, be detrimental to the security of India”, the Passport Office Srinagar rejected Mufti’s application.
The government’s letter intimating Mufti about the denial of a passport also refers to a “confidential note” prepared by the CID branch. Earlier notes prepared by the police against Mufti – such as the one used to detain her under the Public Safety Act in the aftermath of August 5, 2019 – were little more than a catalogue of politically loaded assessments. These intended to cast facts about her that are in the public domain, facts which did not prevent the BJP from allying with her and supporting her as chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
On Monday evening, Mufti tweeted the news of her mother also being denied a passport.
Mufti, who was placed under detention along with several political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019, when the Centre scrapped J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into Union territories, was released just before the Supreme Court was due to take up her challenge of her detention under the PSA, thereby enabling the Centre to avoid judicial scrutiny – and potential censure – of the vague grounds under which she had been deprived of her liberty for 14 months.
In two landmark judgments – Satwant Singh (1967) and Maneka Gandhi (1978) – the Supreme Court has held in the past that a citizen’s right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the constitution includes the right to travel abroad.
In Maneka Gandhi’s case, the Janata Party government which came to power after the Emergency impounded her passport but a 7-judge bench ruled that the procedures established by law under which personal liberty can be curtailed must not be arbitrary or irrational. Though the Centre has invoked a different section of the Passports Act to deny Mufti a passport (rather than impounding an existing one, presumably because her passport had expired), the claim that her departure from India “may, or is likely to, be detrimental to the security of India” could easily be assailed on grounds of arbitrariness.
Mufti, who is also currently under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a money laundering case, has said that the BJP government is trying to “malign my image and discredit my party”.
The 61-year-old PDP leader who was questioned by the ED for more than five hours on Thursday said that central agencies like the National Investigation Agency, Central Bureau of Investigation and the ED were being “misused” to silence the opposition.
“Dissent has been criminalised in this country. The ED, Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency are being misused to silence the opposition tactically,” Mufti said last week after emerging from the ED office at Rajbagh. “This country is not being run by the Constitution but the agenda of a particular political party,” she alleged and added that anyone opposing the current government was “hounded by trumped up charges” like sedition or money laundering.