IN VIEW of complaints, especially from women, of procedural harassment in passport offices, an inter-ministerial panel has recommended that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) should do away with the practice of printing details of a person’s father, mother or spouse in the passport booklet. In its report submitted to the MEA, the panel has said that in keeping with global practices, the ministry must consider doing away with these details.
The panel has observed that the information is “irrelevant for immigration purposes either in India or abroad”. It has also noted that the passport booklets of most countries, especially those of developed nations, do not ask for names of father/ legal guardian, mother, spouse or other details as printed on page 35.
It has said that while these details may be required, the MEA does not need to print the information in the passport booklets, as most of the complaints received from women pertain to this particular page.
The committee, comprising officials from the Ministry of Woman and Child Development (WCD), MEA and Central Passport Organisation, was formed over three months ago to review the Passport Act 1967 and Passport Rules 1980.
“The only details required for immigration purposes are those printed on page 2 that pertain to the passport holder’s name, sex, nationality, birth and passport details. Women — single, separated and divorced — have complained to us that they find it demeaning when asked for irrelevant details that they are often not comfortable revealing,” said an official from the ministry of Women and Child Development.
The panel’s suggestion resolves not only most of the issues related to single parents, but also problems faced by separated/ divorced couples, orphans, and children born through surrogacy or out of wedlock. The committee was constituted after WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj highlighting a particular instance of harassment faced by a single parent, Priyanka Gupta.
Gupta had got over a lakh supporters to sign her online petition highlighting the trouble she faced as passport officials reportedly refused to issue a passport to her daughter, unless she included the father’s name. The father had abandoned the child immediately after her birth.
Maneka had pointed out that the passport guidelines still require the father’s name to be mentioned, despite the fact that the Delhi High Court, in July, said the father did not have to be named.