Rahul Gandhi had requested permission to get an ordinary passport.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has been granted a short-validity passport for three years, according to sources. The passport was issued following a no-objection certificate (NOC) from a Delhi court on Friday, a departure from the typical 10-year issuance period for ordinary passports. This decision was made after an objection was raised by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
Mr Gandhi had surrendered his diplomatic passport after his disqualification as a Member of Parliament. The court's decision was announced by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Vaibhav Mehta, who noted that while not granting the typical 10-year passport, a three-year term would be granted.
This decision comes amidst the ongoing National Herald case, where Mr Gandhi is an accused, and Mr Swamy is the complainant. The case is at a stage of cross-examination of the complainant in pre-charge evidence. Mr Gandhi has been regularly appearing either in person or through his counsel.
The court, in its judgment, emphasised the need to balance public interests and the rights of the accused. It concluded that issuing a NOC for a three-year passport would be in line with the principles of justice.
Mr Gandhi is set to visit the United States tomorrow, news agency PTI reported, where he will attend meetings and interact with university students in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco. His itinerary includes addressing Indian Americans, meeting lawmakers at the US Capitol, and engaging with think tank members, Wall Street executives, and university students.
Mr Swamy contested the three-year passport application, insisting that it was without merit and that the passport should be issued only for one year with annual renewals thereafter. He raised questions about Mr Gandhi's Indian citizenship, alleging that he was a British citizen. This claim, however, was contested by Mr Gandhi's advocate, Tarannum Cheema, who pointed out that similar petitions had already been dismissed by higher courts.
Mr Gandhi's advocates argued that the 10-year passport should be granted, as similar leniencies have been provided in cases involving more serious offences. They also noted that in this case, charges have yet to be framed.
Mr Swamy's private complaint against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and others forms the basis of the National Herald case. He accuses them of cheating, conspiracy, and criminal breach of trust in relation to the acquisition of the now-defunct daily newspaper, National Herald.
The magisterial court had previously observed that the right to travel is a fundamental one, and courts had not placed restrictions on Mr Gandhi's movement. They noted that he had travelled multiple times without having to obtain permission.
Mr Gandhi, who had ceased to be a Member of Parliament in March 2023, had surrendered his diplomatic passport and was applying for a new ordinary passport. He was disqualified following his conviction in a defamation case, where he was sentenced to a two-year jail term. The sentence has been suspended in the defamation case filed over his remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surname.