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Passports: Evolution and Features

  • Context(IE): The recent film ‘Dunki’ focuses on the issue of immigration and the history of passports.

Evolution of Passports

  • In France, the ‘Passport System’ had been well established before the French Revolution 1789.
  • In 1914, the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act was enacted. It spoke about the naturalisation of aliens (non-British subjects) and other laws related to citizenship.
  • The first modern passport was a product of this Act. It carried the holder’s identity, photograph, signature, and other physical details.
  • The League of Nations also held a conference on regulating travel through passports in 1920.

Indian Passport

  • For the first time, under the Defence of India Act 1915, possessing a passport for leaving and entering India was compulsory. Later, the Indian Passport Act of 1920 was passed.
  • In 1952, old passports were revoked. New Indian passports were granted only to “respectable” people.
  • The Supreme Court in the Satwant Singh Sawhney vs D. Ramarathnam case (1967) ruled that every citizen had the right to a passport. Subsequently, the Indian Passport Act 1967 was passed.
  • A passport is proof of address as well as citizenship.

Types of Indian Passport

  • Ordinary Passport (P-type): A dark blue cover passport is issued to ordinary citizens for private travel, such as vacation, study and business trips.
  • Official Passport (S-type): A white cover passport is issued to individuals representing the Government of India on official business, including members of the Indian Armed Forces stationed abroad.
  • Diplomatic Passport (D-type): A maroon cover passport is issued to Indian diplomats, Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the Union Council of Ministers, certain high-ranking government officials and diplomatic couriers, and their dependents.
  • Diplomatic and official passports are now issued as ePassports (Biometric).

Types of Indian Passport

Other features of the Indian Passport

  • All passports contain a note from the President of India to allow safe passage to Indian citizens.
  • The language allowed on the passport is Hindi and English only.
  • India secures 80th rank on the Henley Passport Index 2023.
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