The Telegraph
Thursday , July 17 , 2014
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Proof to curb passport pester

A certificate will be issued to passport applicants once their police verification formalities are complete: the move officially endorsed as a measure to bring more transparency to the system.

Unofficially, sources said, it’s a firewall against some policemen looking for sweeteners even after the police verification is over.

“There have been cases of policemen visiting applicants’ home several times to gather supplementary information, which had no relevance to the verification process. Multiple visits for unnecessary documents enhance chances of corruption. There are reports of policemen harassing applicants even after sending the verification report to the passport office. They give the applicant the impression that their case is stuck because of this or that document,” said an officer.

Calcutta police have received several complaints of policemen harassing applicants for irrelevant documents to pluck out a bribe, sources said.

“We will issue a certificate after completion of the police verification process. It can be shown as proof if another person approaches an applicant for verification. This will increase transparency in the system,” said the joint commissioner (security control office) of police, Shakeel Ahmed.

The verification of passport applications is the responsibility of the security control office.

The certificate will mention the specific file number of the police verification and the date when the officer visited the applicant’s residence. It will carry the name, rank and signature of the officer who conducted the inquiry.

Ahmed admitted that his department has come across specific complaints of harassment against its officers. “We are looking into some of them. Even one is enough to tell us of the existing malpractice.”

In case of normal applications, police verification is done before the passport is issued.

The opposite happens in case of Tatkal or fast-track applications. The rule is to complete the verification within a stipulated time after the Tatkal passport is issued.

If the verification remains incomplete — because of inadequate documentary proof or non-availability of the applicant at the given address — the police send an adverse report to the regional passport office (RPO). This enables RPO officials to start proceedings against the passport-holder.

The RPO issues notices to these applicants seeking explanation. The passport-holder has to personally appear before the RPO and explain why the police verification was incomplete.

The RPO lets the person keep the passport if he/she manages to convince the officials with a positive reply supported by documents. If not, the process of re-verification by the police is started.

The “adverse report” is a loophole in the system that some policemen allegedly exploit to harass Tatkal passport-holders.

Ahmed said the RPO in Calcutta has issued notices to at least 1,800 passport-holders because of adverse reports from the police.

“There was a delay in sending the notices. Some cases date back to 2012. It will be difficult to retrieve those files because most of the cases were closed in our records long ago. Of the 1,800 cases, around 200 have been reverted to us for re-verification,” Ahmed said.

Regional passport officer Geetika Srivastava attributed the delay in sending the notices to “transition of the manual system to online” in the RPO. “Now that things are in place, the system has been regularised,” she said.

Applying for a passport and transfer of police verification reports in some of the districts went online in Bengal in December 2011.

Three killed

Three persons died in road accidents on Wednesday. Around 3.30pm an elderly woman, a street dweller, was run over by a private bus of route No. 37 on Brabourne Road, police said.

The woman was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared her dead on arrival. The bus driver has been arrested.

Sukhdev Singh, 51, died after his van collided head-on with a lorry on Sealdah flyover around 12.30am. Singh was taken to NRS hospital where doctors declared him dead.

Around 2.30am, a 17-year-old youth, identified as Basudev Purkait, died and four others were injured after a mini-truck hit the metal height gauge near Kankurgachhi railway underpass. The injured were treated at RG Kar Hospital.