New Delhi: The Mumbai Regional Passport Office has sought the external affairs ministry’s nod to prosecute Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar for not disclosing criminal cases against her in her passport application.
Sources in the passport office said the department had written a letter to the MEA, seeking it go-ahead to file a criminal case against Patkar for concealing the details about many pending cases against her at the time of filing the passport application in 2017.
The officials said her passport has automatically been impounded after she surrendered it on December 9, in response to a notice issued to her seeking explanation. However, by surrendering the passport she cannot absolve herself from prosecution, they added.
After receiving the permission, the RPO will file a criminal case against her as per the Passport Act. The maximum punishment under the Act is two-year rigorous imprisonment or Rs 5000 fine or both.
A complaint was filed against the activist in June 2019 by a journalist, alleging that Patkar had obtained her passport by concealing and suppressing material facts from the RPO Mumbai.
The complainant had provided the details of nine criminal cases with documentary evidence, pending against her in various districts of Madhya Pradesh.
Patkar in her passport application of March 30, 2017 claimed that no criminal cases are pending against her and in the column on pending criminal cases, if any, she declared “none”.
The RPO Mumbai also sought details of pending cases from the Director General of Police, Madhya Pradesh, who confirmed that charge sheet has been filed against her in five cases.
In the show cause notice to Patkar issued on October 18 last year, the RPO Mumbai had asked as to why her passport should not be impounded for failing to disclose information regarding pendency of criminal cases against her.
Out of the nine criminal cases registered against her, three are in Barwani, one in Alirajpur and five in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh.
The notice had said: “While obtaining passport bearing no…dated March 30, 2017 you have not disclosed the fact regarding pendency of above cases and obtained passport by suppression of material information”.
“In view of the same, it is proposed to impound your passport bearing no…and any other passport if issued subsequently under section 10(3)(e) of the Passports Act 1967. You are requested to state why action should not be taken under section 12(1) of the Passports Act 1967,” the notice issued by the passport office on October 18 said.
The passport officials had sought her explanation within 10 days.
The National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) President V K Saxena, who is currently Chairman of Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), also wrote to the RPO, alleging that the NBA activist “deliberately didn’t disclose” two other criminal cases lodged by him against her.
In the November 22 letter, he said the two criminal cases against her were lodged by him in 2001 and 2006 and are pending in New Delhi’s Saket Court.
But she not only did not mention the nine cases from Madhya Pradesh, but these two cases as well, he wrote in the letter to the passport officer. “In case she has not disclosed about these two criminal cases pending against her you may initiate action as per law,” he said.
Saxena in a statement said that Patkar, who was in 2011 severely censured by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court for filing a false affidavit and pleading in the court in a case related to people affected by the Narmada project in Madhya Pradesh, has been found guilty of suppressing vital information in her passport application.
“Now she conceals her cases of criminality in her passport application. This shows her true character”, he said.
Patkar had unsuccessfully contested from the Mumbai North-East Parliament seat in 2014 on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.