Satwant Singh Sawhney Vs. D. Ramarathnam Assistant Passport Officer

Estimated Reading Time: 21 minutes


It is unbelievable to dream of voyaging to any nation within the world, any time of the year, at an awfully brief note and to remain for an unlisted number of days. Well, such a time did exist sometime recently when the concept of international ids and visas were presented to us. Individuals were free to go wherever they wished and remain for as long as they were satisfied owing to the absence of identifications, licenses, and visas sometime recently 1914. 

But the First World War changed this situation until the end of time. It changed moreover after the Moment World War finished in 1945 when the travel standards got to be indeed stricter. Nations started to watch their borders entirely and implement the international id and visa standards more stringent. 

So long as India was beneath the British rule, all Indians needing an international id were granted a British international id but after the colonial run the show in India came to a conclusion, India began printing its possess travel permits which encouraged had 3 bifurcations. The sorts of identifications were: Standard international id, Official visa, and Discretionary international id.

From 1947 to 1967, identifications in India were as it was granted to a chosen category of individuals regarded to be appropriate by the Indian state as per its watchfulness. Travel permits were regularly granted to individuals based on suggestion letters from individuals who as of now had an international id. 

This case is among India’s point of interest cases since it was driven to the abolishment of the obsolete framework of issuing travel permits that were being taken after in India and are was driven to the advancement of the concept of ‘Right to travel abroad’ and it included the significance of the international id within the requirement of this right. 

The right to travel has been a point of dialog overseas and due to the case already the said matter came sometime recently to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Facts Of The Case

Within the showcase, the applicant is Mr. Satwant Singh, a citizen of India who carries out of commerce within the field of Importing, Exporting and Manufacturing of vehicle parts and building products with the title of the company being ‘Indi-European Trading Corporation.’ He too carries out another trade in building merchandise with the title of ‘Sawhney Industries.’ For the reason of his trade, he has two passports since it is vital for him to form trips overseas. 

On October 27, 1965, he obtained his first passport which was substantial up to March 22, 1967; in the meantime he got his moment visa on December 8, 1965, which was substantial up to March 22, 1969. The moment the visa got by him was a standard passport from the Government of India.

The said case has three respondents to be specific: the Assistant Passport Officer, the Territorial International id Officer, and the Union of India. On 31st August 1966 the Right hand Visa Officer from the Service of outside Undertakings of the Government of India, dwelling in New Delhi, composed a letter to the solicitor inquiring him to return the two travel permits issued in his title since the Union of India had chosen to pull back the visa offices amplified to the solicitor. Some days afterward, on 24th September 1966 the Regional Passport Officer in Bombay composed a letter to the solicitor inquiring him to yield his two travel permits to the Union of India and it too said that in case the solicitor comes up short to follow, these informational strict activity will be taken against him.

The solicitor at that point composed letters to both the right-hand international id officer and the territorial passport officer asking them to re-examine cancelling his identifications but he did not get any answer. The solicitor affirmed that these acts of the visa officers have encroached his crucial rights beneath Art.14 and Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution and have thus recorded a summons appeal some time recently to the Supreme Court for the issuance of a writ of mandamus or any other summons that the court considers being appropriate for the respondents to pull back the letter and cancel their choice of cancelling his travel permits.

Issues Of the Case

  • Whether the right to travel is ensured beneath Art. 21 of the Constitution?
  • Whether the exercise of official discretion to issue or deny a visa is oppressive beneath Art. 14 of the Constitution, within the absence of any law?
  • Whether the passport is of significance within the matter of a person’s exit from India for remote travel?
  • Whether the ownership of a passport has any legitimate ramifications?

Arguments From The Petitioners Side

  1. The right to travel overseas and After that return to India may be a portion of the individual liberty guaranteed beneath Art.21 of the Structure which ensures an individual the correct to life and individual liberty.
  2. The withdrawal of a visa issued or the refusal to issue a passport could be a hardship of a person’s individual freedom since an individual cannot travel outside India without a visa, travel companies cannot concede individuals without a visa and the Indian Visa Act penalizes the re-entry of an individual in India without a passport. 
  3. The method set up by law inside the meaning of Art. 21 are against the hardship of individual freedom of individuals and there’s no law that disallows the citizens of the nation to travel abroad. 
  4. The watchfulness given to the visa officers to dismiss an international id application is violative of Art. 14 of the Structure which awards individuals balance sometime recently the law and breaks even with the assurance of the law.

Arguments From The Respondents Side

  1. The visa could be an office provided by the government and no individual incorporates a right to it since a visa is an official political archive and is used for the protection of the passport-holder in outside nations. 
  2. The right to travel isn’t included within the ambit of individual freedom as characterized beneath Art. 21 since the correct way to travel compulsorily with a visa isn’t a right since an international id is essentially an office and does not involve a right. 
  3. The right to travel is nowhere mentioned within the Structure of India and thus it cannot be implied to exist as a crucial right. 
  4. The right to travel exclusively depends on the metropolitan laws displayed within the outside nation where an individual is going to and no structure can outline laws with respect to the correct to be permitted to travel in another nation.
  5. There was no infringement of the basic right of the solicitor since the applicant breached the conditions of the purport permit that was issued to him and there was an examination going on against him in connection to offenses beneath the Export and Import Control Act. It was too famous that the visa specialists were fulfilled that in the event that the applicant was permitted to have his identification at that point he would take off India and not return to confront a trial sometime recently a Court of law and consequently the appropriating of his travel permits are advocated.
Also Read  Altherton v. British Insulated & Helsby Cables ltd.

Judicial Precedents

  • A.K. Gopalan vs. The State of Madras

In this case, A K Gopalan, the applicant was a communist pioneer kept within the Madras jail since 1947. When he was still beneath detainment, as per orders of the state government, he was served with a new arrangement of detainment beneath the Prevention of Detention Act, 1950. By way of a writ request under Art.32 he challenged the legitimacy of the arrangement fighting that the 1950 Act negates the arrangements of articles 13, 19, and 21 and arrangements of that Act were too not in understanding with article 22 of the Structure. The act was held as ultra vires and subsequently, his detainment got to be unlawful. 

In this case, the court did not bargain with the issue of whether the right to travel comes beneath the ambit of individual freedom specified in Art. 21 but instep it dealt with whether there’s any pertinence of the correct to move all through the domain of India as endorsed in Art. 19(1)(d) of the Constitution.

On page 301 of the judgment, Judge Das says that the reason for Art. 19(1)(d) of the structure isn’t to supply assurance for the common right of free development but to allow the citizens a right to move freely throughout the domains of India which is able to be respected independent from the common right to motion ensured by Art.19(1)(d). It ensures out-of-line separation within the matter of free development of Indian citizens all through the Indian subcontinent and maybe an assurance against provincialism.

  • Kavalappara Kottarathil Kochuni vs. The State Of Madras

In this case, an appeal was recorded which challenged the protected legitimacy of the Madras Marumakkathayam (Expulsion of Doubts) Act, 1955 passed by the Madras Governing body. By way of this judgment, the court pointed out that the concept of individual freedom as per Art. 21 includes a much more extensive scope as compared to the individual freedom cherished in Art.19 of the Constitution. 

This judgment holds esteem within the showcase since it makes a difference in strengthening the thought held within the A K Gopalan case which clears a way for the proper to travel to be included within the ambit of Art. 21. 

  • Kharak Singh vs. State of UP

The applicant, Kharak Singh has let off a dacoity case due to the need of proving it accessible. Certain arrangements of the Uttar Pradesh police controls permitted for the observation of Kharak Singh’s house and visits by the police at night which was challenged by Kharak Singh as violative of his right to security. The Court held that the proper protection isn’t ensured beneath Art. 21 and thus there stands no infringement. 

This case’s judgment served as a clear specialist for the position that “freedom” in our Structure bears the same comprehensive meaning as is given to the expression “freedom” by the 5th and 14th Revisions to the U.S. Structure and the expression “individual freedom” in Art. 21, as it were, avoids the fixings of “freedom” revered in Art.19 of the Structure. It infers that the expression “individual freedom” in Art. 21 includes the proper of loco-motion and to travel overseas, but the right to move all through the domains of India isn’t secured by it since it is particularly given in Art. 19.

  • V. G. Row vs. State of Madras

In this case, the solicitor needed to travel to the USSR and other European nations but he seems not to do so since he did not have a visa that was embraced to visit those nations. Due to the need for support, the solicitor asked the State of Madras to underwrite his international id to the individual nations but it was denied. The solicitor thusly recorded a summons of mandamus coordinating the state of Madras to underwrite the international id of the solicitor as substantial for travel to the USSR and European nations. The solicitor claimed that this refusal of support was an infringement of his crucial rights under Art. 19(1)(g) and Art. 14. 

The Madras High Court came to the arrangement that the State cannot avoid the applicant from taking off for USSR exclusively on the grounds that he did not hold an international id that was embraced by those nations. The Court is too famous that since there was no arrangement of law beneath which a citizen may well be anticipated from re-entering India after voyaging to a remote country including those without a visa. It is on this premise that the Court maintained the presumption that Art. 19(1) (d) would apply to remote travel which there was no limitation that can be put on that right hence making it absolute. Amid the course of this case, no contention was progressed some time recently by the Court with respect to the standing of the right to travel beneath Art.21 of the Constitution.

  • Francis Manjooran vs. Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs

Francis Manjooran, the solicitor, was a youthful graduate in medication and surgery. He was allowed affirmation to think about advance in the USA and thus he connected for a visa. His application for a visa was rejected and subsequently, he recorded a request challenging the legitimacy of that dismissal. 

It was held that the correctness of free development both inside the nation and over its wildernesses are included in individual freedom inside the meaning of Art. 21. It condemned the contract elucidation of individual freedom ensured by Art.21 which confined it to an exclusive opportunity from physical restriction. 

  • A.G. Kazi And Ors. vs C.V. Jethwani

This case primarily bargains with the essential address at hand which is whether the proper to travel overseas is included within the translation of individual freedom beneath Art.21 of the Constitution. 

The Bombay High Court held that the expression of individual freedom utilized in Art. 21 included the proper to go overseas and an individual cannot be denied of this right but agreeing to a strategy built up by law as laid down in Art. 21.

  • Dr. S. S. Sadashiva Rao vs. Union of India

Within the showcase, a division seat of the Mysore High Court held the supposition that the elemental right to go overseas exists within the command of Art.21 of the Structure. Besides that, there moreover exists a principal right to come back to the nation.. 

  • Rabindernath Malik v. The Regional Passport Office

The High Court of Delhi by implication of this case took a stand that’s the stark inverse of the choices that had been passed within the past cases. It was held that individual liberty under Art. 21 do not guarantee the correct to travel outside India and after that re-enter India. This choice was taken since Art. 21 apply to non-citizens of India as well and as per Art. 19 of the Constitution, the non-citizens have a restricted right to move inside the domain of India. So, in the event that the proper to travel is made an essential right beneath Art.21 at that point it would apply to non-citizens of India as well in this manner giving them the next right to movement as given to them under Art. 19(1)(d) of the Constitution. In order to dodge this difference within the rights given to non-citizens, the Delhi High Court stood of the supposition that the right to travel isn’t a portion of individual freedom ensured beneath Art. 21. 

Also Read  Significance of Share Certificate

International Perspective

United States of America

In American law, the passport as defined in the Domingo Urtetiqui v. John N. D’Arcy case could be a political record by which the carrier is perceived as an American citizen in outside nations and it demands the individual nation that the carrier may pass through the individual nation securely and unreservedly. 

According to American law, the term individual freedom incorporates the correct movement which permits an individual to go wherever and at whatever point he satisfies given that it does not abuse the welfare of other citizens.

In the case of R. A. Williams vs. Edgar Fears & Anr, ‘Chief Justice Fuller said the taking after: ‘Undoubtedly the correct movement, the proper to evacuate from one put to another according to slant. is a property of individual freedom, and the correct customarily, of free travel from or through the region of any State, maybe a right secured by the 14th Amendment and by other arrangements of the Constitution.’

In Leonard B. Boundin vs. John Foster Dulles, it was ruled that voyaging overseas is much more than a benefit granted to American citizens but instep it may be a right included beneath the individual freedom ensured to all and this right ought to not be encroached upon or constrained unless there’s full compliance with the due prepare of law. In Kent vs. Dulles the Supreme Court of America pronounced that the proper to travel could be a portion of the freedom of which the citizens cannot be denied without due preparation of law beneath the Fifth Amendment.

The Supreme Court of America in the case of Herbert Aptheker vs. The Secretary of State repeated the choice passed by it in Kent vs. Dulles. Within the showcase, Judge Douglas advanced went on to state the significance of the correct to travel by highlighting its significance within the creation of occupations and prospering of businesses. He too went on to say that America has close ties with all the landmasses both commercially and socially and in case the proper to travel was not made a right at that point it would obstruct worldwide relations as well.


In Britain, a visa could be asked to remote nations to permit the holder of the visa to pass securely through the nation and it too acts as a record distinguishing the international id holder as a national of Britain. 

According to English law, the proper to travel was recognized as existing beneath the term individual freedom since it was included within the Magna Carter in Art.42 as early as 1915. Art. 42 of the Magna Carter peruses as takes after: ‘It might be legal to any individual, for long term. to go out of our kingdom, and to return, securely and safely, by arrive or by water, sparing his devotion to us, unless it is in a time of war, for a few brief spaces, for the common great of the kingdom: but detainees and outlaws agreeing to the laws of the arrive, and of the individuals of us and vendors who should be above.’

Art. 42 weren’t included within the last draft of the Magna Carter but Art. 39 peruses as “No free man should be taken or detained or ignored or banned, or banished, or any way annihilated; nor will we go upon him, nor will- we send upon him, unless by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” This article does not ensure a right to travel overseas but it does talk in outright terms. 

Although Blackstone, an incredible pioneer in common law while talking about the subject of individual freedom did say that individual freedom does undoubtedly consider the control of movement.

Overview of Judgement

The judgment within the Satwant Singh Sawhney vs. D. Ramarathnam, Assistant passport Officer was chosen by a 3:2 lion’s share. The lion’s share judgment was given by Chief Justice Subba Rao for the sake of himself as well as Justice Shelat and Justice Vaidalingam. In the meantime, the disagreeing conclusion was given by Justice Hidyatullah for the sake of himself and Justice Bachawat. 

The fundamental highlights of the judgment are as follows:

  • The right to travel comes beneath individual freedom as ensured by Art. 21 of the Structure. It moreover says that the proper to travel cannot come into the debate by any law made by a State and the as it were time when this right can be pardoned is agreeing to method built up by law. 
  • The act of denying the issue of a visa to the petitioner is violative of Art. 14 of the Structure. 
  • The Court issued a summons of mandamus coordinating the respondents to pull back and cancel their choice contained within the letters dated August 31, 1966, and September 20, 1966 
  • The Court moreover inquired the respondents to avoid taking any steps or procedures against the authorization or execution of the aforementioned choice and advance to avoid pulling back and denying the solicitor of his two identifications and of his visa facilities.


The Satwant Singh case was one of the points of interest since it led to the acknowledgment of the Correct to Travel as a crucial right beneath Art.21 of the Structure. Before long after this case came the Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI case wherein the Supreme Court by a complete lion’s share rehashed that the proper to travel may be a fundamental right beneath Art. 21 and it examined the different methods built up by law wherein the correct way to travel will stand compromised. This case served as a base for numerous future cases just like the Maneka Gandhi case which concerned the proper to travel and it was the primary time the Supreme Court stood for the elemental right to travel in India.


  1. A.K. Gopalan vs The State Of Madras, 1950 AIR 27, 1950 SCR 88
  2. Kavalappara Kottarathil Kochuni vs The State Of Madras, 1960 AIR 1080
  3. Kharak Singh vs State of UP, 1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR (1) 332 
  4. V. G. Row, v. State of Madras, AIR 1951 Mad 147, (1951) IMLJ 628
  5. Francis Manjooran v. Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs; AIR 1966 Ker 20
  6. A.G. Kazi And Ors. vs C.V. Jethwani, AIR 1967 Bom 235, (1966) 68 BOMLR 529
  7. Dr. S. S. Sadashiva Rao v. Union of India, [1965] 2 Mys. L.J. 605, 612
  8. Rabindernath Malik v. The Regional Passport Office, AIR 1967 Delhi 1
  9. Domingo Urtetiqui v. John N. D’Arcy, 34 U.S. 692 (9 Pet. 692, 9 L.Ed. 276)
  10. R. A. Williams vs. Edgar Fears & Anr, 45 L. Ed. 186
  11. Leonard B. Boundin vs. John Foster Dulles, 136 Federal Supplement 21 S.
  12. Kent vs. Dulles, [1958] 2 L. Ed. 1204
  13. Herbert Aptheker vs. Secretary of State, 12 L. Ed. 992