New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS): The Delhi High Court today issued notice to the External Affairs Ministry, Home Ministry and Delhi Police Commissioner on a PIL alleging that mass-scale illegal Indian passports were being provided to foreigners and Indians on the basis of "false verification reports" issued by the special branch of Delhi Police and police departments across India.
A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw termed the allegation as "very serious" and asked the Centre, Delhi government and Delhi Police Commissioner respond to the public interest litigation within four weeks.
The PIL, filed by NGO Paardarshita Public Welfare Foundation through general secretary Harkrishan Das Nijhawan, claimed that Indian passports were issued to foreigners, who are not residing at the given addresses and, in some cases, addresses which do not exist.
The PIL alleged: "Mass-scale illegal passports are issued to the nationals of Afghans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Nepalese and Sri Lankans as well as Indian citizens on the basis of recommendation of false police verification reports issued by the Special Branch of Delhi Police and police department of States as well as Union Territories across India."
Hearing the plea, the court said, "This is a very serious issue." It asked the government if it did not have an independent verification other than the police. "Don't you (government) have independent verification by passport office other than police verification? Very serious allegations are raised in the petition. Passport has been issued on addresses which are non-existing. File response within four weeks," said the bench.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain appearing for the Centre told the bench that the police is the competent authority for verification.
The plea sought immediate action to stop issuing Indian passports to foreigners and Indians on fake police verification reports and action against those involved.
The plea said the NGO wrote to ministries and investigating agencies on the issue but nothing was done. It then filed an RTI (right to information) application in the office of the Regional Passport Office, New Delhi, asking for certain information with regard to Indian passports being issued to Afghan nationals, passports issued to applicants not residing at the given addresses as well as non-existing addresses in village Humayunpur, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi.
The information was denied.
The NGO said it has also approached the Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, who heads all passport issuing offices. He explained that they are fully dependant on police verification reports submitted by the Special Branch in Delhi as well as local police/intelligence units across India.
The plea sought the intervention of the National Investigating Agency and the Central Bureau of Investigation on the issue where thousands of foreigners, criminals and anti-social elements are obtaining Indian passports.
This can endanger citizens of this country as well as other foreign countries where an Indian citizen or foreigner could enter. They could seek refuge/political asylum on the grounds of his/her original nationality. "It would be a great shame to our country on the world platform," the plea said.