Change in passport rules welcome

The government has done well to simplify the rules and procedures while applying for a passport by making a number of changes in the Passport Rules, 1960. The changes were made on the basis of the recommendations of a three-member committee and will reduce the paper work and documentation required for passport applications. Applying for and securing a passport was a challenging exercise once, requiring many details to establish the identity of the applicant. Delays, hurdles, corruption and malpractices were part of the process. Detailed procedures and care may have been needed to prevent impersonation and identity switching. The situation is much better now with more markers of identity, better procedures for their verification and quicker communication. The new rules reflect these changes. They are also in accordance with the social and legal changes which have taken place in the country in the last many years.

When divorces and single parents have increased in numbers, it is sensible to stipulate that the name of the spouse is not needed and only one parent’s name be given in the child’s passport. According to the new rules, there is also no need to provide marriage certificates or divorce decrees. It is also not necessary to get documents attested by notaries or magistrates as self-declarations on plain paper about the correctness of the information and the documents will be accepted. Documents like the Aadhaar card and PAN will be accepted as proofs of date of birth. For orphans, certificates from child care homes or orphanages can be produced to prove the date of birth. Adopted and surrogate children can get passports on the basis of a simple declaration of the date of birth and other details. A sadhu can declare his guru’s name instead of those of his biological parents. This last rule has, however, raised some concerns.

Passport rules and procedures were especially difficult for some sections like women, separated people, children and orphans. With the liberalisation of rules, these sections may not face any serious problems which earlier had led even to denial of passports for them. Another important idea that underlies the relaxation of rules is that citizens can be taken on trust and held responsible for their decisions and actions. The provision for self-certification of personal information establishes a relationship of trust between the citizen and the state. This is important in a democracy. However, there are concerns in some states like Assam, where illegal migration is a serious problem, that the simplified rules and procedures may be open to greater misuse. They should be addressed.
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