Steps to be taken for more effective procedure for passport verification process

Delhi High Court: Deciding a petition by way of PIL which alleged that passports were being issued to Indian citizens and foreigners alike with non-existent addresses on the basis of false police verification reports of Special Branch of Delhi Police, the Bench of G. Rohini, C.J. and Jayant Nath, J. observed that it was necessary for the Union of India to revisit the existing mechanism for verification of the credentials of the applicants before issuing passports and to take steps for exploring more effective procedure.

In order to substantiate its allegation, a specific reference was made by the petitioner to the passports issued to 5 persons, whose addresses as recorded in the passports were said to be non-existent. The respondents submitted that though the passports were issued, the same were not misused. Upon further enquiry into all the 5 cases, it was found that no inquiry was conducted by the police authorities before issuing the police verification reports.Therefore, enquiry officer concerned had been suspended and a departmental inquiry was initiated by the competent authority.

The respondents submitted that though the possibility of an applicant applying with a fake/forged document or a genuine document obtained fraudulently cannot be ruled out completely and it is also possible for an applicant to furnish a proof of Indian citizenship such as election identity card, either fake/forged or obtained fraudulently, and sometimes such documents may escape the attention of the verification officer, all such cases cannot be treated as cases processed with malafide intention. In all cases where it has come to the notice of the competent authority that they have been processed by any official of the Passport Office by flouting any of the rules or processed deliberately on the basis of forged documents, appropriate action as per the rules is taken against the erring official, apart from taking steps for impounding/revocation of the passport.

The Court observed on the basis of the material placed on record that though sufficient statutory measures are in place to check issuance of passports on the basis of fake/forged documents “however, as admitted by the respondents themselves, there are still certain lacunae in the system which may result in issuance of passports to Indian citizens/foreigners on the basis of false/forged documents. It is, therefore, necessary for the Union of India to revisit the existing mechanism for verification of the credentials of the applicants before issuing the passports and to take steps for exploring more effective procedure”.

The Court held that “Keeping in view that passport is a very important document which enables person to travel abroad and the lapses, if any, in following the statutory requirements for issuance of passport may result in serious consequences, hence stringent approach be adopted while dealing with the erring officials”. It however, declined the plea of investigation by NIA or CBI deeming it unnecessary under the circumstances.

The writ petition was disposed of with a direction to the respondents to ensure strict compliance of the existing procedure for verification of the credentials of the applicants before issuing the passports at every stage of the processing of the applications. [Paardarshita Public Welfare Foundation (NGO)  v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 2811, decided on May 9, 2016]

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