New Delhi: A special court today rapped the passport department for routinely seeking its order to impound or release passports seized by CBI during its probe in the Coal scam cases, saying it amounted to “passing the buck” instead of performing its own duties. The court’s observations came while hearing pleas of six persons, who were named as accused in CBI’s FIR but not chargesheeted in a case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to accused firm Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).

The court also issued notices to Chief Passport Officer of the Ministry of External Affairs and Regional Passport Officer of Ranchi to clarify on the issue. During the hearing, the investigating officer said that Ranchi’s RPO has stated that he would return the passport of these six persons only upon receipt of court orders in this regard.

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said, “…it has also been observed that passport officer also continues to sit over the matter and does not prefer any action under the Passport Act whether to impound it or to release it and as a routine asked for court orders.”

“It simply amounts to passing the buck on the part of the passport officer towards the court instead of performing their own duty under the Passport Act,” the court observed and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 30. It said that earlier also, the chief passport officer was intimated in other Coal scam cases that accused should not be harassed in this manner and passport officers should take action as per law which is required under the Passport Act and as settled by the superior courts. The judge also noted that earlier it was observed that during the probe, passports of certain accused were seized by CBI but they were not sent to the passport officer for months.

“…once they (passports) are sent then upon completion of investigation, CBI does not prefer to intimate the concerned passport officer whether those persons whose passport were sent to them have been chargesheeted or not by them or whether their passport are required by them or not,” it said.

During the hearing, the CBI said that they have informed the regional passport officer that they have no objection if the passports of these six applicants were released.

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