Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala High Court has issued notices to the central government and the Passport Authority of India over the plan to introduce orange-colour passport jackets after a petition argued that it falls foul of the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.
The Public Interest Litigation, filed by advocate Shamsudeen, also challenged the proposal to do away with address in passports.
The petitioner contended that the decision to have two different colour passports for educated and non-educated persons is arbitrary and discriminatory. He said that it amounts to discrimination and segregation of persons solely on the basis of their education and economic status.
“There is no rationale for such segregation and it falls foul of the constitutional test of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. It also amounts to hostile and unreasonable classification,” the plea stated.
The Ministry of External Affairs had said in the first week of January that passport holders with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status, that is those who have not passed 10th grade at school, would soon be issued orange passports. The government, however, has not released any other details of the plan, including a timeline for implementation.
The petition said that different passports could increase the vulnerability of workers, who are often duped by middlemen who promise jobs abroad.
“There could arise situations whereby it is easily revealed to the foreign authorities that the persons is uneducated and unskilled, and by making the vulnerable state of the person so evident and apparent, chances of such persons being exploited will be increased,” it said.
Shamsudeen said that nobody can identify a person’s educational qualifications from their passport in the existing system. “No other country has made such discrimination in their passport based on educational qualifications and they all see their citizens equally. This will cause harassment and hardship to poor migrant workers," the petition added.
Earlier, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, too, had voiced concerns over the plan and asked the Centre to rectify the order. “The decision will discriminate between ordinary workers and educated ones. This would lead to a situation wherein those who have not passed the tenth standard would be considered as second class citizens,” he had said.
Many legal experts have also criticized the move, calling it discriminatory. Congress president Rahul Gandhi also termed the decision unacceptable. “Treating India’s migrant workers like second class citizens is completely unacceptable,” he had tweeted.