Passport scam probe finds serious lapses

Central and State government officials, including a few police officers, are likely to be prosecuted

July 17, 2022 01:21 am | Updated July 23, 2022 07:06 pm IST - CHENNAI

Most passports cleared on the basis of fake documents were issued in Madurai and neighbouring districts.

Most passports cleared on the basis of fake documents were issued in Madurai and neighbouring districts. | Photo Credit: iStock

The ‘Q’ Branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu police has completed the investigation in the sensational passport scam in which Indian passports were allegedly issued to dozens of Sri Lankan nationals, who had submitted fake documents in proof of identity and address.

Police sources said the final investigation report pointed to serious lapses on the part of many Central and State government officials, including a few police officers.

It details the nature of offences, the role of touts and the part played by officials, along with evidence.

Report cleared

The report has been cleared by the competent authority. The State government may soon accord sanction to prosecute the officials whose involvement was established, the sources said.

About 175 witnesses were examined in the 2019 case, in which as many as 38 persons were cited as accused.

In a surprise move, the Inspector-General of Police, Internal Security, sent a proposal straight to the Home Secretary, seeking sanction to prosecute the police officials, not keeping the Director-General of Police /Head of the Police Force and ADGP/Chief of Intelligence S. Davidson Devasirvatham in the loop, the sources said.

It was only when the Home Department referred the file for his comments did Mr. Devasirvatham come to know that the final report with the proposal seeking sanction to prosecute some officials was sent to the State government.

A senior police official said there was no bar on the IGP, Internal Security, sending a report or proposal to the Home Secretary directly. “Considering the serious nature and gravity of an offence, the Chief of Internal Security can send a report to the government,” the official said.

When the Home Department referred the report to the DGP and Mr. Devasirvatham for their remarks in February this year, the latter asked the ‘Q’ Branch investigators to clarify whether there was any criminality or conspiracy involving the Assistant Commissioner and the Inspector of Police or mere dereliction of duty warranting departmental action. He also called for the role played by each of the accused officials with evidence. There was little progress in the file thereafter, the sources said.

The scam made news early this week after BJP State president K. Annamalai demanded action against Mr. Devasirvatham. He alleged that since he was then the Commissioner of Police, Madurai (when the fake passports were issued), the subordinate officers could not have committed the offence without his involvement. He said IGP, Internal Security, C. Eswaramurthy had added Mr. Devasirvatham as one of the officers to be investigated.

The case pertains to the issue of Indian passports to several Sri Lankan nationals who had allegedly submitted fake documents in proof of Indian nationality and address. A handful of touts helped not only to source the fake documents but also to process the applications at the passport office.

While verification of the documents is usually done by passport officials, the police make a spot visit, photograph the applicant at his/her given address and check for criminal antecedents before clearing the police verification report online. The postman delivers the passport sent by Speed Post to the applicant at the given address by taking an acknowledgement.

Rules violated

However, in this case, no verification of the documents was apparently done. The police cleared the verification report without following the protocol and the postman connived with the touts to deliver the passports to applicants knowing well that the given address was fictitious, the sources said.

A majority of the passports cleared on the basis of fake documents were issued in Madurai and neighbouring districts, the sources said.

In 2019, the ‘Q’ Branch-CID registered a case under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Passport Act, 1967, against the accused applicants who, with the connivance of others, obtained passports with fabricated documents, as if they belonged to India though they were foreign nationals.

Asked whether the passports issued to foreign nationals on the basis of fake documents would be revoked and their location would be tracked, an official of the Ministry of External Affairs said re-issue or renewal of such passports would be blocked in India and all Indian embassies and missions abroad. “Whenever such passports come up for re-issue or renewal, the system would alert the issuing authority. Until then, it is possible for the accused persons to use the passports for international travel. Issuing a global alert to intercept such suspects is usually done through the Interpol and it is a time-consuming process,” the official said.

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