In this landmark judgment, Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that, no one, except Passport Authority, can impound a passport; nor police nor Courts. Period.
The Apex Court held that
there is a difference between seizing a document and impounding a document. A seizure is made at a particular moment when a person or authority takes into his possession some property which was earlier not in his possession. Thus, the seizure is done at a particular moment of time. However, if after seizing of a property or document, said property or document is retained for some period of time, then such retention amounts impounding of property/or document.
Maintaining that, the Passport Act, 1967 is a special act and thereby prevails over the Cr.P.C. which is a general law, vide G.P. Singh’s Principles of Statutory Interpretation (9th Edition pg. 133). This principle is expressed in the maxim \023Generalia specialibus non derogant\024. Hence, impounding of a passport cannot be done by the Court under Section 104 Cr.P.C. though it can impound any other document or thing.
This judgment has lead to lot of other judgments wherein the various High Courts in India had ordered lower courts to return back the passports of accused, that were either confiscated by the police as part of their search operations or crime investigation or had been surrendered to Courts, as a condition to obtaining Anticipatory Bail. They are listed here.Suresh Nanda vs C.B.I on 24 January, 2008