By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 21 September 2018
The Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India has directed all the passport issuing authorities to accept surrender of both the Registration Certificate (RC) and Identity Certificate (IC) from Tibetans applying for Indian passport.
The memorandum dated 17 September was sent after the High Court of Delhi ordered them to streamline the procedure for processing passport applications from Tibetan refugees in India.
Earlier, due to lack of a government directive, the officials at various Regional Passport Offices (RPO) and Foreign Registration Offices (FRO) at the police posts had been harassing Tibetans with their own rules, making Tibetans run from pillar to post to try to satisfy arbitrary rules for obtaining passport, but all in vain.
The letter signed by Chief Passport Officer of Government of India Arun Kumar Chatterjee said: Every Tibetan Refugee born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987 would be considered eligible for the issue of Indian passport by the passport issuing authorities in India and abroad.
With the new directive, both the RC and IC can be surrendered at the RPO, and a receipt will be issued to that effect. It will be the RPO that will send the RC to the FRO for cancellation. If the RC has already been surrendered at the FRO, the applicant will submit the surrender certificate issued by the FRO at the time of applying for a passport.
RPOs has also been asked to process the applications received till date and in future from the Tibetan applicants born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987 and their children who have been declared Indian citizens under the Citizenship Act 1955.
However, the MEA directive has included an old rule that said: Tibetan refugees should not be staying in any of the designated Tibetan Refugee settlements nor enjoying any CTA benefits or subsidies after receipt of an Indian passport.
Tibetan applicants have been asked to furnish an undertaking stating they will not be staying in any Tibetan Refugee settlement nor enjoying any CTA benefits, privileges or subsidies once an Indian passport is issued.
Judge Vibhu Bakhru on 7 November 2017 has quashed a government notification dated 30 May 2017 that asked Tibetan Refugees to leave the Tibetan settlements after receiving Indian passport, and not to take any CTA benefits.
Bakhru observed that the government counsel was unable to point out any provision in law which entitles the passport authorities to deny passport to an Indian citizen on the basis of where he resides in this country.
Calls to Arun Kumar Chatterjee for comment went unanswered on account of the Muharram holiday.