Ramasamy, a native of Pudukottai, got a work permit for Malaysia and was working there. As soon as he reached the age of 45, he was sent back to India due to age restriction. Ramasamy promptly returned to his home town. He approached the right person and got a new passport from the same address changing his age as 39. He was an Indian citizen.
The Foreign Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) Chennai about a few years back caught a Sri Lankan citizen with an Indian passport. He was promptly sent back before being interrogated thoroughly by IB Officers. During his interrogation, IB officials were shocked to know that the person who was arrested had tried to obtain a fake passport from the Philippines and Thailand. He was unsuccessful and on learning that an Indian passport is easy to obtain, he managed to obtain an Indian passport. When he was trying to flee, was caught and deported.
A Times of India report dated 23 March 2019 reads “The woman lost her Sri Lankan passport. Instead of taking steps to get a new passport, she obtained an Indian passport.”. This one example of how easy it is to obtain an Indian passport.
The above examples are the tip of a huge iceberg.
Noticing an increase in the number of Lankan nationals persons being caught with passports obtained through fraudulent means, the IB sent a report to TN DGP following which a case was registered in TN Q Branch, a unit that deals with Left Wing Extremists, foreign nationals, fake passports, etc. The case was registered against Vaidhyanathan, Annadurai, Ramesh and Shanmugasundaram, brokers who get Indian passport using fake documents for a huge sum of money.
Searches were conducted in multiple places and also in the offices and houses of the passport brokers. Hundreds of passports were seized from unexpected places. A postman held a few passports. Brokers held several passports. Passports, passport related documents were seized in multiple unconnected places.
Q branch officials found a well oiled fake passport machinery functioning from Madurai. People residing in many districts, to obtain passports used Madurai as their place of residence and have obtained passports.
Q Branch decided to register 9 cases for 9 districts. Cases were registered in Tirupathur, Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, Madurai, Pudukottai, Chennai, Trichy and Ramanathapuram. Persons residing in all the 8 districts had chosen and used Madurai to get their passports with fake documents.
The passport brokers from Madurai split the work among themselves. Their operation in local parlance is called ‘passport setting’. One person is allotted for ‘Police setting’ Second one is for Post Office setting and the third one is for Passport Office setting. Money flowed like river. For each fake police verification report amount was charged anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 rupees. On an average 15,000 police verification certificates are issued by Madurai police per month. Of this, 18 to 20% are suspected to be obtained using fake documents. Now do the math.
Details of the hundreds of passports seized were sent to Q branch detachments across the state and officers were asked to verify the documents submitted by the suspected fake passport applicants from UIDAI, Transport Authority and Revenue authorities for voters id card. Officials found direct money transfer from broker Ramesh to the account of Veeraputhiran, Senior Passport Superintendent, Passport Seva Kendra, Tirunelveli. This information was promptly passed on to the CBI and he was arrested by CBI.
In the meanwhile, a division bench of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court took cognizance of this issue on a PIL filed by an advocate named Muruga Ganesan demanding a CBI probe into the passport scam. This advocate had sent a representation to the government on 25.11.2020 demanding a CBI probe. The Division Bench headed by Justice MM Sundaresh issued a direction on 11.02.2021 to the Inspector of Police, Q Branch, Madurai to complete the probe in 3 months, and directed the IG Internal Security to ‘supervise and monitor’ the probe.
After IG Internal Security Eswaramoorthy took over the probe, probe gained momentum. Kandasamy, Head Constable 891 attached to Avaniyapuram PS was added as accused in all the 9 FIRs. Initially the officers were of the impression that, this HC had committed the mischief, received some paltry sum and issued clearance certificates. But the truth was otherwise.
Constable Kandasamy was merely a messenger and front end for the passport racket. The main dealings are set by Sivakumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Intelligence Services, Madurai.
Lets take one case from Koodal Pudur PS. The passport verification was allotted to a Woman Head Constable, who promptly gave a special report to her Inspector. Inspector Chandrasekaran, who cross checked the report, found it to be true and endorsed the “adverse” remark meaning passport should not be issued. The reports were sent to the Passport Section IS, and its Assistant Commissioner Sivakumar, threw the special report to dustbin and approved the application. Police verification report was uploaded. Initially, the role of Sivakumar did not come to light. Only later, the likely involvement of CoP Davidson and Sivakumar gave to light.
The role of the police in passport verification matters is to verify the citizenship of an applicant and criminal antecedents, as per MEA circular dated 26 October 2018. The police verification done vouches a person to be an Indian citizen and no further verification is made thereafter at any quarters.
After Digital Signature was introduced in the administration, Commissioners of Police in Cities and Superintendents of Police in rural were handed over the digital signature dongle who in turn deputed a responsible officer to do the verification and upload Passport Verification Reports (PVR).
In the case of Madurai, its CoP Davidson is the concerned authority and he deputed AC IS Sivakumar with the job. It was Davidson who addressed the Ministry of External Affairs and obtained the Digital Signature dongle in the name of AC Sivakumar. The high handed activity of Sivakumar in issuing PVRs to foreign nationals, without hesitation could not have happened without the blessings of Davidson. More about this relationship later.
Evidence mounted against Sivakumar and he was included as accused in the Madurai Q Branch case.
Investigation was completed and letters were sent by the Investigating Officers to the competent authorities for sanction to prosecute the public servants belonging to the postal department, passport office and police. Sanction under section 197 Cr. PC is mandatory to prosecute a government servant.
While the postal department accorded sanction quickly, an Indian Economic Service officer Arun Prasad IES showed reluctance to accord sanction. He was the Regional Passport Authority to accord sanction to his subordinates. Sanction to prosecute the passport officials involved in the scam is yet to be received.
The Q Branch did not face hurdles from any other quarters. They had to face the fury of their own boss.
Davidson Devasirvatham as Additional DGP Intelligence is the supervising officer for Internal Security also. Till then, he was blissfully unaware about the developments.
Home Secretary is the appointing authority for an officer of Assistant Commissioner of Police cadre and the Investigating Officer addressed the Home Secretary for according sanction on 17.12.2021.
When the service role of AC IS Sivakumar was called for from Madurai Commissionerate, he came to know of the developments. Sivakumar and Davidson were very close when Davidson was CoP of Madurai. Sivakumar, was the collection agent for Davidson till the time he was the CoP, according to sources in Madurai. This fact is openly discussed among Madurai cops.
Knowing he is in trouble, Sivakumar dialled Davidson. All hell broke loose.
Davidson turned his wrath on Kannamal IPS, the Superintendent of Police of Q Branch. He gave her a dressing down as to why he was not kept in the loop about this investigation. He then pulled up IG Internal Security Eswaramoorthy and shouted at him, according to sources. Davidson did not stop at that.
He called the IO who investigated his aide Sivakumar and openly issued a threat that he will be suspended from service and face severe consequences, according to sources privy to the developments. The probe hit a wall.
Meanwhile, the Head Constable Kandasamy was charged in the Tirupattur and Salem cases. He is an accused in the remaining 7 cases. The charges against Constable Kandasamy are very serious and he is facing 9 criminal cases. Isn’t this a fit case for suspension ? He is still on active duty. Davidson knows, once the Head Constable is suspended he will spill the beans.
The reason why Davidson throws his full weight behind the corrupt Assistant Commissioner is perplexing to many. A senior IPS officer who doesn’t wish to be quoted says, “Normally, officers do try to help their subordinates when they are in trouble. But there is always a line. Minor mistakes can be condoned. But what Sivakumar did is criminal. He should be in jail.
This is not a question of a few fake documents. But it is a question of India’s national security and sovereignty. When foreign nationals spend a few lakhs of rupees and get Indian passports without due diligence, what is the point in us calling ourselves a sovereign country.”
In mid June, there was a meeting between officials of MEA and MHA and the fake passport issue was taken up by MEA. MHA promptly ordered a discreet probe through a specialised agency and they found the entire passport scam as true.
The details of the scam somehow landed on the lap of TN BJP President Annamalai and he blew the whistle. Now, it is learnt that TN Governor has sought a report from government on the allegations made by Annamalai on Davidson.
Davidson Devasirvatham is a clever operator. He always maintains a camouflage of being an upright officer but the truth is otherwise. Officers who worked closely with Davidson say, he always had another face – corrupt face – which very few are privy to. More about the shady side of Davidson will come out in the coming days.
To cite one example, Nagarjuna Fertilisers group was running a petro chemical factory in Cuddalore in a 2500 acre land. During Thane cyclone in 2011 the factory was ravaged beyond redemption. Management settled the dues and wound up. The factory is lying idle and the Nagarjuna group still holds the title of the land. The factory is under liquidation.
Local people affiliated to political parties and petty criminals enter nto the abandoned factory and steal the scrap. From 2011 this has been happening and no one used to be bothered, including the management.
In the past week, the factory suddenly got a protection of 250 policemen, including 50 women PCs. The factory management has not sought protection as they are already facing liquidation and a lot of trouble. There is no power supply in the factory. Its pitch dark in the night. Still women police are deputed only on the instruction of Davidson.
It is said that, the 2500 acre real estate of Nagarjuna group is of interest to DMK’s first family. The deputation of 250 policemen to guard the abandoned factory is not on the orders of DGP or ADGP L&O or IG North Zone but by ADGP Intelligence, Davidson. Bypassing IG North Zone and DIG Villupuram, Davidson directly spoke to Sakthi Ganesan, SP Cuddalore and directed him to provide round the clock security using police resources.
Davidson’s closeness to DMK family is well known. He was the handpicked choice of TN’s defacto Chief Minister, Sabareesan, Stalin’s son in law. In fact Sabareesan flaunted that he has made a brilliant choice in Davidson. Till this piece goes to publication, the government has not taken a call on whether to replace Davidson or not.
Neither TN CM MK Stalin nor his officials appear to understand the gravity of this situation.
India’s whole security apparatus is keenly watching this case as they feel it’s a security nightmare. No one has a clue as to who went where using the 200 odd fake passports. Tracing them is very difficult. Only the documents they submitted are fake, but the passports are genuine. How many foreign agents obtained Indian passports remain a mystery. With the Chinese threat from Lanka remaining high, this angle too spells danger.
The seriousness of this scam can be understood by one instance. India’s External Intelligence agency R&AW suspects that Sri Lankan MP from Vanni, Kulasingham Dhileepan is a beneficiary of this fake passport scam and he fled India through a fake passport issued in Madurai and a probe in this regard by R&AW is on.
Apart from this, the petitioner in the PIL before Madurai High Court in this regard, is planning to approach the High Court on a Contempt petition. The time granted by the High Court expired in June 2021 and more than a year has lapsed.
With the TN Q Branch CID has dealt with this case and the main suspect bossing over the investigation, MHA is contemplating whether to transfer the investigation of the case to the National Investigating Agency.
If TN CM MK Stalin fails to take corrective steps on a war footing, this passport scam may cost him his government.