Prajwal Revanna case: Protocols involved when MPs and government officials travel on special passports - Hindustan Times
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Prajwal Revanna case: Protocols involved when MPs and government officials travel on special passports

May 26, 2024 08:00 AM IST

The protocol section of the Rajya Sabha said that MPs using diplomatic passports are required to apply for “political clearance” for their visit from EAM

The diplomatic passport used by MP Prajwal Revanna, the suspended Janata Dal (Secular) leader facing allegations of mass sexual abuse, to travel to Germany is from a special category of passports issued by the government to officials and others who travel abroad for official purposes.

Prajwal Revanna possibly flew abroad on April 27, a day after the second phase of Lok Sabha polls on a diplomatic passport. (PTI)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Prajwal Revanna possibly flew abroad on April 27, a day after the second phase of Lok Sabha polls on a diplomatic passport. (PTI)(HT_PRINT)

The external affairs ministry is currently in the process of cancelling the diplomatic passport of the 33-year-old MP who is facing charges of criminal intimidation and sexual harassment after thousands of videos emerged purportedly showing him in sexual acts with multiple women.

The three categories of passports issued under the Passports Act of 1967 are ordinary, diplomatic and official. According to information provided by the minister of state for external affairs in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha in 2018, the categories of people eligible to hold a diplomatic passport are those granted diplomatic status, and government officials travelling abroad on diplomatic assignment or for official purposes.

According to category F of Appendix 13 of the Passport Manual of 2016, the external affairs minister has the discretion to issue a diplomatic passport with a duration of one to five years to any person who, in the opinion of the minister, should have a such a travel document “either because of the nature of his or her foreign mission or because of the position he or she holds or has held in the past”.

Those holding diplomatic passports and travelling abroad for official purposes are normally not charged visa fees.

According to the protocol section of the Rajya Sabha, members of Parliament (MPs) and their spouses are entitled to diplomatic passports, which are issued by the consular, passport and visa (CPV) division of the external affairs ministry. The ministry also issues a “visa note” – a note verbale, or unsigned diplomatic correspondence, to embassies for private visits to foreign countries by MPs and their spouses.

The external affairs ministry acknowledged earlier this month that Revanna travelled to Germany on a diplomatic passport but said authorities had no role in facilitating a visa for him. At the time, Revanna didn’t seek political clearance from the external affairs ministry for his travel to Germany, and authorities also didn’t issue a “visa note” to the German embassy to facilitate the issuance of a visa.

However, the protocol section of the Rajya Sabha said in a bulletin issued in December 2022 that MPs using diplomatic passports are required to apply for “political clearance” for their visit from external affairs ministry and “ensure that before proceeding abroad the requisite political clearance has been obtained”. This is also applicable to private visits for tourism or visiting friends and relatives.

All invitations to MPs from any foreign source, including a government or any foreign entity, will have to be routed through the external affairs ministry.

Requests for political clearance should be made at least three weeks in advance. The ministry will then make a recommendation to the MP while taking into account the stature of the foreign entity that has sent the invitation, the appropriateness of the forum and public interest.

The same Rajya Sabha bulletin also offered a clarification on the use of diplomatic passports by MPs or their spouses for private visits. “While Diplomatic Passports can be used for private visit [tourism or to visit friends/relatives], they are not meant to be used when travelling abroad for private business,” it said.

 

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