The Bombay High Court has recently refused to return the passport to a Malaysian national accused of smuggling of human embryos from Malaysia to India. The court observed that if the passport is returned, the accused will leave India and may not return for adjudication, making it difficult to secure his presence for the trial. Justice S S Shinde said, “The offence in which the petitioner is alleged to have been involved is a serious one, that is smuggling/illegal import of human embryos into India from Malaysia by mis-declaring the same to the Malaysian Customs authorities as stem cells. The presence of the petitioner for adjudication and trial is necessary.”
A petition in the case was filed by Partheban Durai, a Malaysian national, seeking directions to the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to hand over the passport and refund the amount Rs 30,000 taken from him at the time of releasing him on bail in March 2019. On March 15, Durai had arrived in Mumbai from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After completing formalities at the airport, some officers of DRI reportedly had approached him and made some inquiries. According to the petitioner, the DRI officers had forcefully confiscated all his personal belongings, including Malaysian passport and illegally detained him at the airport for six hours.
The petitioner alleged that he was then taken to DRI office, where he was illegally detained and tortured to “confess” to have smuggled some goods into India. He further alleged that he was neither informed the grounds of his arrest/detention nor was he produced before a magistrate during the period of his detention. The petitioner further told court that he was forced to sign several documents without reading their contents. He was then released allegedly on a bail of Rs 30,000. After bail, the petitioner requested the agency several times to return his passport, but his requests reportedly went unheeded.
The counsel for DRI told the court that the petitioner is involved in smuggling human embryos into India by mis-declaring the same to the Malaysian customs authorities as stem cells. The counsel added that when the petitioner was intercepted at the airport, a canister was found containing human embryos. DRI counsel also told the court that evidence collected during the course of investigation, including the petitioner’s mobile, clearly revealed his involvement in smuggling of human embryos from Malaysia to India.
The counsel added that messages from the petitioner’s phone revealed that he was to deliver the human embryos to a clinic in Bandra (West) in Mumbai. A few days after his bail, the petitioner had written to the Senior Intelligence Officer, Director of Revenue Intelligence, stating his willingness to surrender his passport to the DRI. Referring to the letter, the court said, “…it is clear that the passport of the petitioner has not been impounded or confiscated or retained illegally by respondent No.1 (DRI), but has been voluntarily and willingly surrendered at the relevant time by the petitioner…”