An internal investigation by the foreign ministry has found that the official who allegedly harassed and inter-faith couple, had indeed overstepped his brief. Sources in the ministry said passport official Vikas Mishra “overstepped bounds of duty” and his transfer order stays. The officer’s behavior was flagged by Tanvi Seth, who alleged that he had asked her to change her name as she was married to a Muslim.
Following her tweets to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, the ministry had taken action against the official and issued passports to the family. But the ministry’s action has triggered an uproar on social media by a section, who accused the minister of appeasement of minorities. Ms Swaraj has hit back, initially “liking” the tweets that targetted her and starting a poll on the trolls, and then blocking an user on a dare.
There is “no anomaly” in issuing passport to Tanvi Seth, ministry sources told NDTV today. “Marriage certificate is not needed for passport… adverse police report is given only if criminal cases or if individual is not an Indian citizen,” sources said.
The last was a reference to a further development in which the Lucknow police had said Ms Seth and her husband had not been living in the city for more than a year and they might have to make fresh applications at their local passport office, which was in Noida.
Within days, the ministry had announced a set of fresh rules, one of which said an application for a passport can be made from anywhere in India and not necessarily at a local passport office.
Last month, Ms Seth said the passport officer had told her that her passport cannot be made unless she changed her name in all documents, since she had married a Muslim. She said he had spoken to her in a “very humiliating manner” which had reduced her to tears. Calling it a case of “moral policing”, she said he also put both their passports on hold.
Ms Seth’s husband, Anas Sidiqui, said the officer asked him “to change my name, my religion”.
The officer at the centre of the controversy had said he had asked for a change only because the woman had submitted a nikahnaama (marriage certificate) which had a different name and so he could not ignore it.