CHENNAI: In a significant order ending the ordeal of noted film maker Leena Manimekalai, the Madras High Court on Friday quashed the order of the Regional Passport Officer (RPO) impounding her passport as she was facing a criminal defamation case filed by another film maker Susi Ganesan.
Justice M Dhandapani passed the orders allowing a petition filed by Manimekalai.
“The impugned order passed by the passport authority is set aside. The passport authority is directed to release the passport within a week,” the judge ordered.
Manimekalai’s passport was impounded by an order issued on September 9, 2021 by the RPO based on a direction by the IX Metropolitan Magistrate, Saidapet, citing pendency of the defamation case.
Without heeding to the explanations she had given, the RPO went ahead with the action to impound the passport under section 10 (3) (e) of Passport Act, 1967, she contended in the petition.
Susi Ganesan filed the criminal defamation case against her in 2019 after her allegations of sexual harassment during the “Me Too” movement. Later, he filed another petition to impound her passport. However, the Magistrate closed the petition on 11 November, 2020. Susi Ganesan approached the Madras High Court with a plea to impound the passport but it was rejected on January this year.
In this context, according to Manimekalai, the IX Metropolitan Magistrate reopened the case on 27 August this year and directed the RPO on 6 September to proceed as per section 10 (3) (e) of Passport Act, 1967.
She wanted her passport be handed back as she had to visit York University in Canada where she had joined a programme on film making.
A city civil court had already quashed the order of the metropolitan magistrate saying that the magistrate had no powers to order impoundment of passport and it went against the personal liberty of the aggrieved person.
Feeling relieved by the High Court order to hand her back the passport, Manimekalai said, “Finally my fundamental right to livelihood, to study and to travel is restored.”
She added, “I only plea to women not to lose courage and speak out when our dignity is in danger. Only by collective strength we can smash patriarchy. Truth always triumphs.”
Source: The New Indian Express