New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday granted a no-objection certificate (NOC) to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for issuance of an 'ordinary passport' for three years instead of 10, the period for which it is normally issued, following an objection raised by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

The former Congress president had surrendered his diplomatic passport upon his disqualification as an MP.

"I'm partly allowing your application. Not for 10 years but three years," Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Vaibhav Mehta told Gandhi's counsel while pronouncing the order in a packed courtroom.

The court noted the National Herald case was pending at the stage of cross examination of the complainant in pre charge evidence and Gandhi has been regularly appearing either in person or through his counsel and has not hampered or delayed the proceedings.

Rahul Gandhi is an accused in the case in which Swamy is the complainant.

This court has to take into account the public interests involved and also has to keep in view the rights of the applicant to travel abroad. Therefore, this court after going through the submissions of both the sides and after perusal of the record is of the view that ends of justice would suffice if the applicant is granted NOC for renewal of the passport of the applicant as per rules for a period of three years, the judge said.

Gandhi is scheduled to visit the United States in

the first week of June during which he will attend meetings and interact with university students. He is slated to visit Washington DC, New York and San Francisco. The Congress leader will likely address Indian Americans, meet lawmakers at the US Capitol, and interact with members of think tanks, Wall Street executives and university students during his stay.

The magisterial court, in the forenoon, reserved its order on Gandhi's plea for grant of NOC after hearing submissions of his lawyers and Swamy.

Swamy opposed the application, saying it was "devoid of any merit" and insisted the passport should be issued only for one year and renewed every year thereafter.

It is a special case. The passport should not be issued for 10 years. It seems wrong, he said, and claimed Gandhi's Indian citizenship was under question. He alleged Gandhi was a British citizen.

Gandhi's advocate Tarannum Cheema contested Swamy's claim and said two petitions asking for initiating criminal proceedings against the Congress leader on the citizenship issue have already been dismissed by higher courts.

Cheema, along with advocates Nikhil Bhalla and Sumit Kumar, urged the court to allow the passport to be issued for 10 years since such relief has been granted by higher courts in cases involving more serious offences. They said in the present case even charges have not been framed.   

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