A single judge of Telangana High Court held as follows:
From Para 18, (When Seizure turns into Impounding – 4 weeks from Seizure)
18. Having given due consideration to the submissions made as above and also taking note of the precedents on which reliance is placed by the learned Counsel appearing for the parties, it is to be seen that retaining of passport by the police authorities after the same is seized beyond a period of four weeks would amount to impounding by the police authority, which power the said authority lacks, as has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Suresh Nanda V. C.B.I. (2008) 3 SCC 674. Further, this court having regard to the law laid down by the Apex Court and the provisions of the Cr.P.C. including Section 457 Cr.P.C., has by its order in I.A. No.1 of 2019 in W.P. No.22956 of 2019 held that retaining the seized property by the police after being reported to the Magistrate, would have to be considered only as a custodian and such retaining cannot be considered as impounding by the police authorities and passport holder has to make an application to the concerned Court for release of the passport.
From Para 19,
However, even after commencement of functioning of Courts, if the respondent police authority has failed or fails to take steps in depositing the passport within a period of four weeks, the same would amount to impounding, which power the authorities are not conferred with.
From Para 20,
20. Further, even after the seized material is deposited into Court under seizure report, when it comes to passport seized and deposited into Court, the Court is not empowered to impound the passport under Section 104 of Cr.P.C. upon such deposit. The power to impound a validly issued passport is specifically conferred on the passport authority under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act, 1967, being a special enactment would prevail over Cr.P.C. a general enactment. Thus, even after deposit of seized property into the Court, the respondent authority would be required to take further steps by approaching the passport authority under the Passports Act, 1967, and seek for impounding of passport. The said situation can arise only if any one of the condition enumerated in clause (a) to (h) of sub-section (3) of Section 10 of the Passports Act, 1967 being attracted. At this stage, the judgement rendered by the Madras High Court in Jeyabalan case (supra) would be of aid to the case of the petitioner.
From Para 21 (Very Imp: Passport/Travel document can be cancelled by Passport Authority, even when the physical possession of passport is not there with them)
XXX Vs The State of Telangana on 09 Nov 2020
21. It is also to be seen that for impounding of passport by the passport authority on attracting any of the conditions specified in Sub-section (3) of Section 10 of the Passports Act, 1967, having of physical custody of passport is neither mandatory nor specified. It is only the satisfaction of the passport authority that any of the conditions stipulated in (a) to (h) of Section 10(3) is attracted, the authority can impound the same, irrespective of where the passport holder is residing at. However, before passing of impounding order, the authority is required to give opportunity of hearing to the concerned. Thus, the claim of the respondent authorities that, if passport is released to the petitioner, it will be difficult to apprehend him again, does not appeal to this Court for being accepted for the aforesaid reasons and also having regard to the wide amplitude of powers, the passport authority enjoys, unless the petitioner escapes to countries with whom India does not have Extradition Treaties or Arrangements or seeks asylum in a country so permitting. Even otherwise, the said apprehension also appears to be without any basis for the reason, the petitioner claims to be working onsite/onshore with an Indian IT company and would be on employment visa and all his details would be available with the employer as to the onsite location of working and client details and at a call of the employer, the employee can be withdrawn and deported from wherever he is.
Note: Name of the Petitioner redacted upon his request email dt: 13 Jul 2023