At least 1,200 Tatkal passports issued in Calcutta last year are under the scanner of the ministry of external affairs after the city’s regional passport office blacklisted 12 bureaucrats in Bengal for allegedly issuing the all-important verification certificate to applicants without verifying their credentials.
People seeking a Tatkal passport need the verification certificate from a government official above a certain rank. The document states that the persons could be issued a passport without police verification.
A passport official said bureaucrats are expected to issue certificates only to those known personally to them or whose credentials they had checked,
The foreign ministry has learnt that the 12 bureaucrats — the majority from the Indian Revenue Service and at least two from the Indian Administrative Service — neither knew the persons they had given the certificate nor checked their credentials, sources said.
The bureaucrats have been “cautioned” by the ministry and blacklisted from issuing verification certificates, the sources added.
About 9,000 Tatkal passports were issued in Calcutta last year, over 1,200 based on certificates by the 12 blacklisted bureaucrats.
“For Tatkal passports, police verification happens after the document is issued. The police have been informed about these 1,200-plus passports so that they are extra careful during verification. If any irregularity is found, passports will be revoked,” said a ministry official.
Senior passport officials in Delhi confirmed the irregularities, saying names of the 12 bureaucrats have been sent to all passport offices in India so that certificates issued by them are not accepted anywhere.
“Several types of action could be taken against these bureaucrats. In the past, when such a scandal was reported in Odisha, the matter was handed over to the CBI. In Karnataka, a similar case was transferred to the Lokayukta for investigation. In Bengal, a local-level inquiry has been initiated. We have asked all RPOs to be vigilant against such malpractice,” chief passport officer Muktesh Pardeshi told Metro.
The irregularities were detected late last year after officials at the Passport Seva Kendra, Kasba, got suspicious when they found a number of Tatkal applicants carrying verification certificates from a single officer.
It was revealed that the applicants had paid middlemen to procure the certificates. “The applicants claimed that they didn’t know the officer who issued the certificate but paid money to a fixer,” said a passport official.
The matter was not reported to police because of the absence of substantial evidence suggesting bribery. The applicants who benefited from wrongdoing were not ready to report the matter, said a foreign ministry official.
“The officer issuing a verification certificate should personally know the applicant or should be in a position to verify his or her credentials before issuing a certificate. That’s what the rule says. If the officer doesn’t verify the credentials of the applicant before issuing a certificate, the onus of suppression of fact, if any, by the applicant, falls on the officer,” said the ministry official.
Geetika Srivastava, the regional passport officer in Calcutta, said: “It is an internal matter. We are looking into it.”
A Tatkal passport is supposed to be despatched from the passport office within a single working day, excluding the date of submission of the application.
A normal passport takes three working days after a positive police verification report is issued.
In Bengal, it usually takes 2-3 months to get a passport.