Clearance for Foreign Travel for Politicians

  • A Delhi State Minister has petitioned the court, requesting that the government grant her political clearance before it is too late.
  • Previously, the Delhi CM’s participation in the World Cities Summit in 2022 was postponed due to the Centre’s delayed political approval.

Recognising Political Clearance

  • The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issues political clearance, which is essential for public servants and government officials travelling overseas.
  • Since 2016, applications for political clearance can be made using the portal.
  • The type of the event, level of participation, invitation, and India’s relations with the host country all contribute into the decision on political clearance.

(1) Process for CMs and State Ministers to Travel Abroad

  • Informing the Cabinet: According to the Cabinet Secretariat’s directive of May 6, 2015, CMs and State Ministers must inform the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of External Affairs about proposed foreign visits.
  • Mandatory nature: Such visits require prior political clearance and FCRA clearance.
  • Application procedure: A clearance application must be submitted to the Secretary of Economic Affairs (DEA).

(2) For other Ministers and Parliamentarians

  • For official and personal trips overseas, Union ministers must obtain clearance from the Prime Minister’s Office in addition to political clearance from the MEA.
  • Only official trips require permission from the Speaker and Chairperson of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, respectively.
  • Depending on their level and delegation type, government personnel must obtain approval from the Minister in question or a screening committee of secretaries.

(3) Application to Judges

  • After receiving clearance from the Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court and state High Court judges must submit their ideas to the Department of Justice.
  • The MEA and, in some situations, the Home Ministry must approve the project.
  • In the past, the Delhi High Court has overturned guidelines on judges’ personal travel.

Deliberations about political clearance

  • PM Modi met with Union department secretaries to discuss the matter during his first term.
  • Officials have been urged to improve the “dilatory system” of the MEA in clearing trip proposals.
  • The MEA has claimed its authority over the suitability, desirability, and amount of participation of Indian officials in international activities.

Reasons for Denials of Political Clearance

  • The MEA may deem direct correspondence between a diplomatic mission and a state government to be inappropriate, resulting in the denial of authorization for a visit.
  • Considerations for substance and protocol: Concerns about the substance and procedure components of a CM’s visit may arise, influencing the decision to deny political clearance.
  • Inadequacy or undesirability: The event’s nature or the amount of participation from other countries may be regarded improper or undesirable for a CM’s visit, resulting in clearance refusal.
  • Concerned agencies may confront difficulties in providing special treatment to a Chief Minister’s visit, taking both substance and procedural considerations into account.
  • Prevailing circumstances: The decision to withhold political clearance may be influenced by the prevailing circumstances, such as diplomatic ties with the host country or other relevant criteria.
  • Concerns about national security: In some situations, national security concerns may result in the denial of political clearance for an official visit.
  • Inadequate justification: If the purpose or rationale supplied for the visit is deemed insufficient, the request for political clearance may be denied.

The Importance of Political Clarity

  • Ensures that India’s interests are effectively represented and protected abroad.
  • Maintains diplomatic connections while following established protocols.
  • Security concerns are balanced against the necessity for international engagement.

Diplomatic Implications

  • Political clearance denial can have an impact on bilateral and multinational interactions.
  • Increases international cooperation and conversation.
  • Through the smooth organisation of visits and engagements, trust and goodwill are built.
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