Cops told to release Ugandans' passports

Foreigners also enjoy right to life & liberty, says SC

Cops told to release Ugandans' passports

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Mumbai police to release passports of three Ugandan nationals, including an MP, who were not allowed to move or leave the country on a complaint lodged by Videocon group.

A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi pulled up the police for discrediting the country by lodging an FIR against them. The court described the police action as “unfortunate”.

“Mumbai police instead of protecting the liberty of Ugandan nationals, acted on the FIR...For few acts of such officers, the country gets a bad name,” the court observed, dismissing the plea by the Maharashtra government’s  counsel that Mumbai police acted in a bonafide manner.

The Ugandan nationals whose passports were impounded and their movement restricted by Mumbai police included advocate Isaac Isanga Musumba, a former minister of state for finance and planning (2001-2006) and foreign affairs (2006-2011) in the east African country, Ugandan MP Mawanda Michael Maranga, and businessman Magoola Matthias.

Musumba, who claims to be senior advisor to the President of Uganda, has a diplomatic passport. Maranga carried an official passport and Matthias an ordinary Ugandan passport.

All of them approached the apex court alleging that police officials were harassing them on the instructions of Videocon group. They contended that they arrived in Mumbai on April 17 to sort out disputes with the Videocon group related to mines lease awarded to the company in Uganda.

A complaint was filed against them on behalf of the group on April 19 and police restrained them from leaving the country and impounded their passports. The court, while granting relief to the petitioners, said the right to liberty is available to everyone, including foreigners, in the country and the police could not put a restrain on them.

Referring to the Article 21 of the Constitution which says, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”, a bench of Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that “person” in Article 21 was not just the citizen of this country but any person present in it.

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