Tibetans applying for Indian passport continue to face various forms of discrimination and harassment, and are left with no choice other than appealing in the courts for relief.
The discriminatory practices in processing the applications include imposition of arbitrary rules and ignoring government orders by the Regional Passport Offices (RPOs), and unsubstantiated adverse police verification reports by the local police officers.
A number of cases that have been filed in Delhi High Court in the last few months have all been decided in favour of the Tibetan petitioners by the judges, as all the reasons for blocking lacked any merit.
In one of the two cases heard in Delhi High Court on 19 September, the judge learned that an applicant in Delhi was charged Rs 10,000 when surrendering his Identity Certificate (IC, the yellow book issued to Tibetans in place of a passport), as a penalty for supposedly suppressing the fact that he was already a holder of IC when he made his passport application. Further, his application was put on hold since his father’s name did not match in the supporting documents.
After paying the fine demanded by the officials for “suppressing information”, the officials at RPO Delhi have been delaying his passport process for months without giving any reason.
“I went to the RPO several times in four months, trying to work out to process my application, but they kept pushing me away without giving me any good reason,” the man from Delhi, who did not want to be named, told Tibet Sun.
Finally, seeing no other way to resolve the problem, his case was filed the Delhi High Court at the end of August.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the Delhi High Court, in a ruling on 19 September, said that the question with regard to suppression had already been covered by the Court in Tenzin Dhonden v Union of India, decided on 12 April 2017. In this decision the court held that since there is no provision/field in the passport application form requiring the person to fill up the details about the IC, the question of suppression of such certificate did not arise.
The judge ordered the RPO to refund the Rs 10,000, and directed the Government to examine the deficiencies in the application form.
The Court also granted the Petitioner three weeks to supply the RPO with documents with the correct father’s name, and told the RPO to process the petitioner’s application within three weeks.
In another case, an applicant from Dehra Dun faced rejection by the RPO stating three discrepancies including: 1 Nationality doubtful; 2 Suppression of material information about holding Identity Certificate; and, 3 Particulars of his IC and his passport application not matching.
The same judge stated in his decision that with respect to points 1 and 2, the issues had already been covered by the same court in the judgement concerning Namgyal Dolkar which had been decided on 22 December 2010. Regarding point 3, the judge gave the applicant three weeks to provide the required documents to the RPO. It also directed the Regional Passport Officer to process the petitioner’s application within three weeks after receiving the documents.
A third case on the same day has been postponed to 26 October. The plaintiff, an applicant from Mundgod, had received an adverse police verification report stating that the “passport applicant is holding Tibetan nationality”, and hence the RPO refused to process his application.
Although the “Tibetan nationality” issue had been cleared by the Government of India in March following a Delhi High Court judgement in September 2016, the RPOs overlook the order and continue to harass the Tibetan applicants and deny them their right for a passport.
The Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India in a memorandum issued on 17 March 2017 stated:
It has been decided that all the Passport Issuing Authorities in India/abroad in compliance/pursuance to order dated 22 September 2016 of the High Court of Delhi, subject to usual checks and other formalities stipulated under the Passport Act 1967 and the Passport Manual 2016, shall process all the pending applications of Tibetan Refugees applicants born in India between 26 January 1950 to 1 July 1987, for the issue of passports treating them as the Indian citizens by birth under Section 3(1)(a) of the
Citizenship Act 1955.
If the Police Verification Report in the cases of such applicants from the local police authorities or the security agencies of the Government is received as “Adverse” by virtue of the fact that the applicant being a Tibetan Refugee is not an Indian citizen by birth, shall not be taken as Adverse but the same shall be accepted as ‘Clear’ and passport will be issued to such an applicant, if he is otherwise eligible to hold the same.
An applicant from Dharamshala was told by RPO Shimla that the police had sent an adverse police verification report saying that the photograph in the application didn’t match that of the person claiming to be the passport applicant, and that she does not have any permanent residence. Her case will be heard in January 2018.
Many applicants in Dharamshala are facing the same adverse police verification report over permanent address issue. But the passport rule does not require that an applicant must have a permanent residence.
Tibet Sun has learned of a few other applicants working on filing cases later this month for facing similar harassment at the RPOs.
The Central Tibetan Administration has added to the woes of the Tibetan applicants. On 5 July, the CTA in an order to Tibetan Settlement Officers around India asked them not to issue No Objection Certificates (NOC) for Tibetans applying for Indian passport.
RPOs have asked Tibetans to first surrender their Registration Certificate (RC, the stay permit in India) in order to process their passport. RC is required to be surrendered at the local police station, and some police offices have asked for NOC from the settlement offices.
It is likely that the issue might get to court as this has troubled a few applicants in processing their passport.
Advocate Simarpal Singh Sawhney, the lawyer who handled many cases of the Tibetans, said that the common problem in all these matters is that the RPOs never tell the applicants about such discrepancies until they approach the court.
Sawney said “It’s very unfortunate that the Regional Passport Officers all across India are ignoring the Office Memorandum dated 17 March 2017 through which the Ministry of External Affairs has directed the Regional Passport Officers to treat Tibetan Refugee applicants born between 26 January 1950 and 01 July 1987 as Indian Citizens by virtue of Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”