Unsigned passport lands official in trouble

July 28th, 2008 - 11:13 am ICT by IANS  

By Kanu Sarda
New Delhi, July 28 (IANS) Anuradha Thadipathri Gopinath’s plan to visit Dubai was dashed at Mumbai airport because she had been issued an unsigned passport. Now a court has pulled up the passport officer for “serious deficiency in discharge of duties”. National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission pulled up the passport officer posted at the Bangalore regional passport office last week for the negligence and asked him to pay a compensation of Rs.10,000 and cost of Rs.2,000 to Gopinath.

Observing that travelling on such a passport could have invited unnecessary trouble for her, commission president M.B. Shah said: “A passport, which is issued without the signature of the competent authority, is on the face of it invalid which would have placed the complainant in a precarious position and she might have been hauled up for various offences if she had tried to go abroad on that passport.

“Such lapse amounts to a serious deficiency in discharge of duties, which is in the nature of rendering of service,” said Shah.

Gopinath was issued a passport by the official, who did not sign it at the time of its issuance. She got a visa too.

She reached Mumbai airport to embark on her journey to Dubai. But at the airport, the lacuna came to light and the airport authorities asked her to go back. She lost the opportunity of going abroad on a trip that her company had sponsored.

Gopinath went to the Karnataka District Forum. The forum directed the officer to pay a compensation of Rs.10,000 and costs of Rs.2,000 to her.

The passport officer appealed to the Maharashtra State Commission which upheld the original order.

The official then appealed to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. He said he was “exercising a sovereign function” while issuing the passport. He was not charging a fee, and therefore this could not be a consumer dispute, the official contended.

But the commission ruled: “In our view, issuance or non-issuance of a passport may be a statutory duty and may not be a consumer dispute but issuance of an invalid passport which is not signed by the passport officer, would be deficiency in service on the part of the officer concerned.”

Everybody pays a fee for getting a passport, the commission, and dismissed the appeal.

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