Millennium Post

The right to passport

It is regrettable that citizens who wish to go abroad are unnecessarily harassed by the authorities constituted to issue passports. Citizens complain that there is no prompt issuance of this document that is a legal necessity to travel abroad. Instead, even those whose documents are in order and who are legitimate travellers are forced to make multiple visits to the Passport Seva Kendras even as the petty bureaucracy involved places needless hurdles in their path and are unnecessarily rude and unhelpful. What is worse is the corruption involved in the issuance of passports. Touts flourish and can arrange passports quickly, with the connivance of petty officialdom, even as the  legitimate channels are not responsive. It is understandable for there to be security checks and precautions in the days of terrorism but the existence of such widespread corruption defeats their purpose. In addition, the procedures and requirements for getting a passport are cumbersome and the state machinery dedicated to this purpose is inadequate. This, in turn, leads to systemic delays. The state cannot deny to its citizens the issue of passports except on very limited grounds for it is a fundamental right that is available to them. In fact, the Supreme Court has laid down the law in numerous cases that the expression personal liberty which occurs in article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to travel abroad and that no person can be deprived of that right except according to procedure prescribed by law, which cannot be arbitrary, unfair or unreasonable.

This right also necessitates the speedy issuance of passports to block which is not within the discretionary powers of the government. In these days of expanding economic and commercial ties between nations, as well as other forms of international connectivity, inefficiencies in the issuance of passports reflects badly on a nation and impacts it in various ways as there are costs. Such inefficiency also reflects badly on the government-people interface. There is, therefore, a need to streamline the procedure for the issuance of passports in the interests of efficiency. Passport offices must become customer friendly and not be an intimidating experience. While there should be incentives to motivate staff to process applications speedily, there should also be penalties for those who do not do so. Without doubt, there has to be more transparency in the functioning of these offices so that the citizens are in the know at all times and are not taken for a ride. This would ensure the necessary accountability. It is, above all, necessary to punish, and stringently, those who indulge in corrupt practices.  
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