Fake ‘originals’ leave passport officials in a tight spot

Fake documents are no longer the big cause for concern for passport-issuing authorities. Original documents such as Aadhaar and PAN card, submitted by applicants who later turn out to have provided false information, are proving to be the real challenge.

Around two months ago, the Bengaluru Regional Passport Office (RPO) received a rude shock when two people who were issued passports from the office were arrested in West Bengal in separate cases. They were later found to be immigrants from Bangladesh.

“We instantly know which ones are fake. We refer suspect documents to the police. But here the documents they submitted were valid. We wanted to file a police complaint, but as they were apprehended in West Bengal, the police there are investigating the case,” said Bharath Kumar Kuthati, Regional Passport Officer, Bengaluru.

“In these cases, they managed to get passports based on authentic documents such as PAN card, Aadhaar card and EPIC. But these were obtained illegally. That makes it all the more serious. This is a risky proposition as we rely on these documents,” said Mr. Kuthati.

Significantly, passport applications are subject to police verification before the sanctioning of the official document, which is also a certificate of citizenship. Last year, the Ministry of External Affairs further simplified certain passport procedures, including the application for a new one for certain categories of applicants.

The Bengaluru RPO issued over 6.44 lakh passports in 2016. This year, 4.52 lakh passports were issued till August 11.

However, the Bengaluru police say such cases are few and far between. City Police Commissioner T. Suneel Kumar said the cases brought to their notice are dealt with on a “specific case basis”.

“If they are found with bogus certificates, we can book criminal cases against them for forgery. But when it comes to originals, we have to verify with the issuing authorities,” Mr. Kumar added.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) officials, however, said Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship. “Rather, it is only an enabler for identification. For example, once issued with a card, ‘A’ cannot claim to be ‘B’. Whoever has a proof of identity and address, and has lived here for the preceding 182 days, is enrolled. We capture biometrics too, and after all this a unique identity number is issued. Our duty ends there,” an official said.

Criminal count

The development comes at a time when the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures for ‘crimes committed by foreigners’ in 2015 was pegged at 1,278.

As many as 2,057 foreigners were arrested during that period, with arrests under the Passport Act (143) second only to cases registered under the Foreigners Act (1,367). As many as 73 persons were arrested for forgery.

The maximum number of arrests were made in West Bengal (1,185), followed by Maharashtra (176), New Delhi (168), Karnataka (102), Tamil Nadu and Goa (both 69). Karnataka and Maharashtra also reported the highest number of foreigners arrested for cheating (20 and 15, respectively).



Source by thehindu..