A passport officer named Vikas Mishra in Lucknow, was transferred by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, as a couple alleged that he had harassed them, due to husband and wife belonging to different religions. Tanvi Seth W/o one Mohammad Anas tweeted to Mrs Swaraj, accusing Mr. Mishra of rude behavior and obstructing the issue of passport to her muslim husband and herself, because they hadn’t changed their names after marrying each other.
In her tweets, Tanvi said that though she got married to a muslim man, she didn’t change her name out of personal choice. She also alleged that Mr. Mishra asked her to change her name as it’s the duty of girls to do so after marriage, and even asked her husband, to get converted to a Hindu, and take ‘saat pheras’. After her tweets went viral, Mr. Mishra who was at counter C-5 of the passport office in Lucknow, was transferred by the Minister.
However, Mr. Mishra has defended his action, and has pointed out the ‘flaws’ in Mrs. Tanvi’s application. He says that Tanvi’s name according to the ‘nikahnama’ (contract in a muslim marriage) was Shadia Anas, though she hasn’t changed her name as per the nikahnama. Now, this is strange, because if the marriage happened according to muslim rites with a nikahnama, and not Special Marriage Act, then Tanvi has converted to Islam.
This means that, either it’s not an inter-faith marriage, as is being claimed by Mrs. Tanvi and her husband. Or, it’s doubtful if she has changed her name to Shadia Anas according to the nikahnama contract. Owing to this doubt, the officer says that he had only asked Mrs. Tanvi to tell him, if she has changed her name or not. In fact, a column in the passport application form (image given below article), needs the applicant to enter this information correctly.
Mr. Mishra also said that he had told the couple, that logically they should have gone to the Ghaziabad passport office, to get their work done quickly, rather than traveling from Noida to Lucknow. But the couple got angry on hearing this. Mrs. Tanvi said she had a problem with the ‘tone’ of Mr. Mishra. We feel that Mr. Mishra has a valid argument, and he shouldn’t have been transferred under media’s pressure, without being given an opportunity to explain himself.
The passport application form requires a declaration by the applicant, which states that all information provided is true and correct. Marital status and name change (if done) needs to be specified in this form. Though Mrs. Tanvi claims that she didn’t change her legal name according to the nikahnama out of personal choice, which is fine. It must be understood that nikahnama is a valid certificate of muslim marriage in accordance with muslim personal law, and Indian law.
Also, if there has been a change of name, it must be specified in the form, and in case there’s a difference between the name according to the nikahnama and the legal name, a passport officer is duty bound to ask questions. There’s a possibility, that a Hindu woman can change her name on passport, and write Shahrukh Khan in the column for husband’s name, and it’d be taken as correct, without her needing to even prove it!
It’s worth mentioning here, that the rules for getting passport have been simplified by the Modi government, and women no longer need to provide a marriage certificate, as only a normal legal affidavit is enough in cases of name change, addition of husband’s name or change of marital status. However, a passport officer must not be ‘punished’ for scrutinizing an application, which is his duty. As this would set a wrong precedent.
In fact, mentioning of wrongful details in passport is a crime, but it does not seems to be enough deterrent for someone to willfully give wrong information. There’s a probability that such a passport could be misused by the one who carries it. What if a muslim woman terrorist, gets a passport made under a hindu name, and indulges in an act of terrorism? One can only shudder to think of such an eventuality.
Along with cancelling the transfer of the passport officer, and giving him a fair chance to justify his action, The Youth demands answers to these important questions from the External Affairs Ministry:
Why Mrs. Tanvi and her husband go to Lucknow to apply for passport when they could’ve done it in Ghaziabad?
Had Mrs. Tanvi and her husband specified their marital status in their passport application form, or not?
If it’s not necessary, why did the couple submitted their nikahnama, when it has another name of Mrs. Tanvi mentioned on it, instead of legal name?
How is asking a simple question by the passport officer, rude behavior, when he observes 2 different names, submitted by an applicant?
Were the couple given their passports in a hurry, without proper scrutiny by the local intelligence unit of the Police, under the pressure of media and social media, just because they tweeted to Mrs. Swaraj?
Will their application be scrutinized now, after they have their passports in their hands?