When Can A Citizen’s Right To Travel Abroad Be Restricted? Explained With Judgments
One of every person’s fundamental liberty is their freedom of movement or their ability to travel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the freedom of every human being to depart from any country, including his or her own, and to return there. The freedom to move freely is protected by international law and the constitutions of many countries. According to Article 13 of the Human Rights Declaration, every citizen of a state in which they are present is free to travel, live, and/or work wherever they please, as long as they respect the rights and freedoms of others. They also have the freedom to leave any country, including their own, and return at any time.
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Right to Travel Abroad
However, the right to travel outside of India has its roots in the right to life and personal freedom guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which grants the right to move openly throughout Indian land. It states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law.”
The phrases “life and liberty” have been assigned a wide range of meanings in this text through liberal interpretations. Here, life refers not only to a person’s bodily presence but also to their overall quality of life. Similar to independence from bodily restraint or confinement, personal liberty refers to a variety of liberties as well.
According to Article 21 of the constitution, the freedom to travel is a component of human autonomy. The right to travel overseas is a crucial fundamental human right, according to the Supreme Court in April 2019: “It nourishes the independent and self-determining creative character of the individual, not only by broadening his experience.” Even fundamental rights, however, can be limited “according to the procedure established by law,” as is well established.
In the case of Satwant Singh Sawhney v. D. Ramarathnam, which involved the right to travel overseas, the Supreme Court determined that the “expression” of personal liberty includes the freedom of movement and international travel. The Supreme Court rendered a negative ruling in the same case regarding the possibility that the requirement to possess a passport for lawfully traveling overseas hinders an individual’s right to travel abroad.
In a nutshell, despite the fact that they are granted under separate sections of the constitution, both the freedom to move internationally and without restriction within Indian territory is drawn freely from “personal liberty.” There may be some restrictions on the use of the right to travel overseas, but they must follow the legal process. The freedom to travel around India is subject to some reasonable limitations as well.
The Supreme Court stated in the Maneka Gandhi v. UOI case that the term “personal liberty” used in article 21 has a very broad meaning and that it encompasses a wide range of rights that include man’s personal liberty, some of which have even been elevated to the status of separate fundamental rights and given additional protection under Article 19. An individual’s personal autonomy, the rights that go along with it, and their responsibilities and commitments to the state all need to be balanced.
The Passport Act and Lookout Circulars (LOCs)
The 1967 Act regulates the issuing of travel papers and passports. The central government may suspend a passport or other travel document under certain circumstances, as stated in Section 10A of the Act, “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, the friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public.” Upon getting notification from the appointed authority or central government, an immigration authority may intervene to stop a person from leaving.
Guidelines for the issuance of lookout circulars regarding the arrival and exit of individuals whose travel the investigation agencies want limited or banned were published by the Centre in 1979. Following the Delhi High Court’s rulings in the cases of Vikram Sharma v. Union of India and Sumer Singh Salkan versus Asst. Director & Ors., the rules were modified in 2010. Although there have been numerous changes since then, the Ministry of Home Affairs last examined the rules in February 2021.
The Bureau of Immigration (BoI) opens a LOC against an individual upon getting a request from the competent authority, which are top officials in the central government or law enforcement organizations. An LOC may also be issued by a district judge or a supervisor of the police. The issuing of LOC may also be ordered by criminal judges. According to the regulations, the issuing agency is responsible for the legal consequences of any action taken by immigration officials as a result of the LOC.
According to the guidelines, the LOC subject cannot be held, jailed, or forcibly stopped from fleeing the nation in situations where there is no offense that is punishable by the IPC or other criminal laws. The originating agency’s only option in these situations is to ask that they be notified of the subject’s presence or exit.
According to the “statutory process,” there are limitations on the freedom to travel overseas. Equal, fair, and logical limitations are necessary to uphold Natural Justice principles. The Constitution does not explicitly state the justifications for restricting the right to travel overseas. According to Section 10(3) of the Passports Act 1967, the passport officials have the authority to suspend, revoke, modify, or imprison the passport or travel document in certain circumstances. The passport may have been fraudulently acquired or kept in the wrong hands in some cases.
- When the cancellation of the passport is done for the greater benefit of society, India’s sovereignty and integrity, national security, or cordial ties with any foreign government. when the passport bearer has received a minimum two-year prison term after being found guilty by an Indian judge of a crime involving moral corruption. The Passports Act states that a judge may revoke a person’s passport after finding them guilty or upholding their sentence.
- when a criminal case in India is looking into a claimed crime done by the passport holder. when the passport bearer is required to appear in court or be arrested.
- Any time a prerequisite for obtaining a visa or other travel document has been broken.
The Supreme Court has designated the right to foreign travel as a fundamental right, which is a significant privilege. The court ruled that the freedom to journey overseas is a crucial fundamental human right because it encourages a person’s independence and creativity. Marriage, family, and friendship are a few instances of human interactions where a dread of traveling abroad is rarely an impediment, proving that this freedom is an important human right. There may be fair limitations placed in the public interest on one’s ability to travel freely within India’s borders and elsewhere. For instance, limitations on movement and travel might be implemented to stop pandemics like the current COVID 19 global catastrophe
Contributed by Sanal Pillai
Edited by Imtiaz Ullah