Elections

How Suspended MP Prajwal Revanna Fled To Germany Without A Visa: Explained

Suspended MP Prajwal Revanna used a diplomatic passport to go to Germany. These passport holders are entitled to certain privileges and immunities as per international law, including immunity from arrest and detention

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Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate shows a photograph featuring JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna (L) who was summoned for an alleged sexual abuse case, at a press conference in Bengaluru on May 1, 2024. Photo: Getty Images
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Suspended JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna, who has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, is still on the run. He fled to Germany reportedly on April 27, a day after voting for the Lok Sabha elections took place in his Hassan constituency and when the abuse allegations came to light. 

Nearly 3,000 explicit video clips allegedly involving Prajwal Revanna sexually abusing several women have gone viral in Hassan in the past week. However, Revanna hasn’t been detained or questioned yet. He sought seven days' time to appear before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Karnataka government to probe the allegations on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a political slugfest ensued between Congress and BJP over who should have taken action against the MP. Union Home Minister Amit Shah accused the Congress government of not taking timely action against Revanna despite being aware of the allegations. On the other hand, the state Congress government attacked the saffron party for allying with the JD(S) at this juncture.

But who exactly can revoke Revanna’s passport? On Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's demand for revocation of the suspended MP's diplomatic passport, the Ministry of External Affairs said such an action can be taken only on the directions of a court. Revanna did not use a Visa to go abroad. He instead went on a diplomatic passport and did not seek political clearance for the trip. 

What is a diplomatic passport?

These passports are Type D with D standing for Diplomatic. 

Diplomatic and official passports are issued to people holding diplomatic status or those who are deputed by the Government of India for official duty abroad. This also includes senior government officials, MPs, members of the Union Council of Ministers, and other high-ranking government employees.  This passport comes with 28 pages, unlike an ordinary passport that has 30 to 60 pages. It is issued for a period of five years or less, depending on the position of the holder and the nature of assignment/visit.

Can a politician with a diplomatic passport travel abroad without a visa?

Yes. While a visa is mandatory for normal Indian citizens, the government has entered into agreements with several nations, including Germany, that allows Indian diplomatic passport holders to visit other countries without a visa for up to 90 days.

However, even diplomatic passport holders are required to obtain political clearance for the trip directly from the MEA through a special portal. A recent bulletin issued by the Rajya Sabha secretariat says: “Members, when using a diplomatic passport, are required to apply for prior political clearance directly to the Ministry of External Affairs by using the link www.epolclearance.gov.in and ensure that before proceeding abroad the requisite political clearance has been obtained. Requests may kindly be made at least three weeks in advance”.

However, the MEA said that Prajwal did not seek political clearance for his trip.

What privileges does a diplomatic passport holder have?

Along with a hassle-free travel experience, a diplomatic passport holder does not pay taxes on income from countries outside the host country. These passport holders are also entitled to certain privileges and immunities as per international law, including immunity from arrest, detention, and certain legal proceedings in the host country.

How can the diplomatic passport be revoked?

The MEA, in response to questions about the possibility of revoking Revanna's passport, said: "As regards the possible revocation of the passport of any individual, I would refer you to the relevant provisions of the Passport Act 1967. We are not in receipt of any directions from any court in this regard.” 

Among other conditions under which a passport can be revoked, the Passport Act 1967 allows the passport authority to revoke a passport if they deem it necessary to do so in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, or friendly relations of India with any foreign country; or if the passport holder has, after the issue of the passport, been convicted by a court in India, and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years; or upon orders from a court during proceedings with respect to an offence allegedly carried out by the passport holder before a criminal court. 

Whose diplomatic passports have been revoked in the past?

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi surrendered his diplomatic passport after he was disqualified by Gujarat Court last year, following his conviction in the criminal defamation case over his 'Modi surname' remark. 

In 2016, the Indian government revoked the diplomatic passport of fugitive industrialist Vijay Mallya, on the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that was probing allegations of money laundering against him. He is said to be currently residing in the United Kingdom, while proceedings are still underway to bring him back to face trial.

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