Responses to Information Requests

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5 May 2014


India: Availability and prevalence of fraudulent identity documents, including membership cards of political parties (2011-April 2014)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Common Fraudulent Identity Documents

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University, who served in the Indian police force for 17 years and continues to conduct research on Indian criminal justice issues, said that most identity documents in India can be faked and/or obtained by fraudulent means and can be "custom ordered in most parts of the country" (Associate Professor 11 Apr. 2014). He said that the most commonly faked documents are ration cards, birth certificates, driving licenses, and municipal documents, and that these fraudulent documents are prevalent throughout India (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Transparency International (TI) India, the Indian chapter of the worldwide NGO that fights corruption and promotes transparent and ethical governance (TI n.d.), also indicated that fraudulent identity documents are commonly available in India (ibid. 23 Apr. 2014). This source indicated that the most commonly faked documents are the ration card and voter ID card (ibid.). He stated that fraudulent documents are more prevalent in the slum areas of metropolitan cities and at border areas of the country, particularly the border with Bangladesh (ibid.).

Indian media sources report on several incidents in which people suspected of making fake identity documents were arrested, including for forging voter identity cards (The Times of India 25 Sept. 2013; Press Trust of India 7 Feb. 2014; Hindustan Times 10 Mar. 2014) and ration cards (The Times of India 8 Aug. 2013).

The Times of India reports on a case in which two people in Delhi were arrested for supplying fake driving licenses, birth certificates, and other identity-related documents (17 June 2013). The police reportedly recovered 31 fake driving licenses, 31 fake stamps of several state transport authorities, and holographic stickers from the suspects, who charged between 2,000 Indian rupees (INR) [C$37 (XE 28 Apr. 2014a)] and 3,000 INR [C$55 (XE 28 Apr. 2014b)] per document (The Times of India 17 June 2013). The Times of India also reports on a racket in which civil servants at the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), in cooperation with outside agents, had been selling forged birth certificates for 2,000 INR [C$37 (XE 28 Apr. 2014a)] to 5,000 INR [C$91 (XE 28 Apr. 2014c)] apiece (The Times of India 23 Sept. 2013). The scam included forged orders by a city metropolitan magistrate, as magistrate orders are required when a birth certificate is issued after the child is more than one year old (ibid.). A KMC health department bailiff was one of the suspects arrested (ibid.). The Hyderabad-based newspaper, Deccan Chronicle, reports that a racket in Kochi, which was under investigation by the police, was charging 5,000 INR [C$91 (XE 28 Apr. 2014c)] for fake driving licenses, voter's ID and ration cards (22 Apr. 2012).

According to the Associate Professor, fraudulent documents are usually obtained either through "touts" [people who solicit business in a brazen way] that operate near government offices or by directly bribing the clerks that prepare the documents (Associate Professor 11 Apr. 2014). He said that a fraudulent driving license or birth certificate may be obtained for approximately C$15-20 in most areas of India (ibid.). The TI representative said that fraudulent IDs are commonly procured through touts in different areas who prepare the documents, and that the cost varies from place to place (23 Apr. 2014).

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), who is a specialist on human rights in India, described the ration card as an "almost fool-proof" document (14 Apr. 2014). However, the Herald, the largest English daily newspaper in the state of Goa, reports on the circulation of fake ration cards in Goa (3 Oct. 2013; ibid. 10 Sept. 2013). Similarly, The Hindu national newspaper reports on the use of fake ration cards to obtain other identity documents (2 May 2012).

Media sources report of cases in which Bangladeshi nationals have been able to obtain fraudulent Indian identity documents, such as Aadhaar cards [an identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India that acts as a proof of identity and address (India n.d.)], driving licenses, PAN cards [used for Income Tax] (The Times of India 24 Apr. 2012; The Statesman 12 Jan. 2013), as well as birth and marriage certificates (The Times of India 24 Apr. 2012).

2. Passports

According to the Associate Professor, the authenticity of passports is more reliable than many of the other identity documents, but is "not beyond doubt" (11 Apr. 2014). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an official at the Embassy of Canada in New Delhi indicated that the most common fraudulent identity document that they encounter is the national passport since most of the identity documents they encounter relate to migration (Canada 21 Apr. 2014). According to the AHRC representative, having a passport does not necessarily prove identity, since it is possible to obtain one by bribing officials (14 Apr. 2014).

Media sources report of several scams in which passports were able to be procured with the submission of fake identity documents:

  • In May 2012, The Hindu reported that the Hyderabad police arrested four employees of the regional passport office who were helping agents secure passports with the use of fabricated ration cards and Elector's Photo ID cards (2 May 2012).
  • The Hindu reports on a passport scam in Tamil Nadu in which 127 Sri Lankans were able to secure Indian passports through the submission of fake identity documents (25 May 2013). A police officer was among those reportedly arrested for involvement with the scam (ibid.).
  • Mail Today reports on a passport scam in Lucknow involving senior officers of the passport office, who issued genuine passports based on forged documents (Mail Today 6 July 2013). According to one of the police officers, at least 50 passports were issued to suspected ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] agents or to others with "terrorist links" (ibid.).

The Hindu explains that passports seized in fraud cases were "'genuine'" but the documents used to obtain them were fake (The Hindu 26 Apr. 2012). The Hindu also explains some of the difficulties of verifying documents during the passport application process as follows:

Ration cards, Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC), bank passbook and secondary school certificate memo of marks submitted by applicants for identity and address proof do not have any security marks. With fraudsters using high-precision printers and computers to prepare fake documents, determining the documents' authenticity by naked eye or physical verification is not possible. (ibid.)

The Times of India describes the following cases of people being arrested for using fake Indian passports:

  • In 2014, two suspected Sri Lankan nationals were arrested in Pune airport for using fake Indian passports (The Times of India 12 Mar. 2014). Authorities discovered the passports were fake before the suspects left the country when they scanned the passports and the photos did not match the computerized records available (ibid.).
  • Two Myanmar nationals were arrested in 2013 after being deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after travelling to there from Pune on fake Indian passports (ibid.). The passports were not discovered as fake until the suspects arrived in the UAE (ibid.).

The AHRC representative was aware of cases in which people were able to travel with fabricated Indian documents, but were then arrested when returning to India (14 Apr. 2014).

According to the AHRC representative, fabricated passports cost between 3,000 INR [C$ 55 (XE 28 Apr. 2014b)] and 10,000 INR [C$182 (XE 28 Apr. 2014d)] (AHRC 14 Apr. 2014). According to the Times of India, touts in front of the regional passport office in Chennai offer assistance in getting a tatkal [express service] passport for 8,000 INR [C$146 (XE 28 Apr. 2014e)] to 10,000 INR [C$182 (XE 28 Apr. 2014d)] by procuring verification certificates from officials, noting that it is difficult to ascertain if the certificates are genuine or fake (Times of India 20 May 2012). Deccan Chronicle reports that a racket under investigation in Kochi was charging 25,000 INR [C$455 (XE 28 Apr. 2014f)] for fake passports (22 Apr. 2012).

3. Aadhaar Cards

According to the Associate Professor, the unique ID numbers given to individuals based on biometric identifiers [also known as Aadhaar] by the Unique Identity Project are "'high tech' and beyond reproach" (11 Apr. 2014). However, media sources report on some cases of fraud involving Aadhaar cards, including a scam in which people used fake Aadhaar cards to try to obtain voter identity cards, which was uncovered by the Delhi Election Commission (Mail Today 14 Aug. 2013; The Pioneer 8 Aug. 2013). According to the Pioneer newspaper, the same Aadhaar number was used for obtaining 30 voter identity cards for residents of Seelampur (ibid.). In another case, the Hindustan Times reports of a fake document scam involving the arrest of an Aadhaar card agent and the seizure of five Aadhaar cards believed to be forged (10 Mar. 2014). In another example, the Statesman reports of a case in which a Bangladeshi man claimed to have been able to receive an Aadhaar card by paying 2,500 INR [C$46 (XE 28 Apr. 2014g)] in bribes (The Statesman 12 Jan. 2013).

4. Fraudulent Medical Records, School Records and Police Reports

According to the Associate Professor, fraudulent medical records, school records and police records are prevalent in India (11 Apr. 2014). Similarly, the TI representative said that there are fraudulent school, medical and police documents available (23Apr. 2014). In addition, the Canadian official said that fraudulent medical records, school records and police records used in immigration applications are "regularly encountered" by the embassy (21 Apr. 2014).

According to the AHRC representative, fraudulent or fake medical records are "easy to obtain" and can be "easily bought," particularly from private doctors or hospitals (14 Apr. 2014).

The Times of India reports on a racket in which a gang was selling fake degrees from universities, including three located in Kanpur, Agra and Bareilly, as well as marksheets and certificates from [Uttar Pradesh] Board High Schools (25 Sept. 2013). The Srinagar-based daily newspaper Kashmir Images reports on organizations that openly advertise the production of fake school records, including the production of university and college degrees, diplomas, transcripts and "packages" containing multiple documents at a reduced price (Kashmir Images 24 Aug. 2012). The same source notes that there have been cases in which doctors were later found to have fake medical degrees (ibid.). The government reportedly introduced a bill in 2011 to establish a national database of academic awards in order to deter fraudulent academic records (ibid.). Information on the status of this bill could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response. However, according to the TI representative, there has been a reduction of fraud in school records as a result of the "use of technology" (23 Apr. 2014).

According to the AHRC representative, police documents are more difficult to obtain fraudulently than medical records (AHRC 14 Apr. 2014). He also noted that some states have searchable databases of First Information Reports [FIRs] making it harder for a fake report to go undetected (ibid.). The Associate Professor said that police reports might be genuine if they are printed on official government stationary and contain an official seal, but also said these "should not be used as a certificate of authenticity" (11 Apr. 2014).

5. Fraudulent Political Party Membership Cards

According to the AHRC representative, political party membership cards "can be bought or can be easily forged" and do not have a particular purpose or value in India (14 Apr. 2014). The Associate Professor said that

[p]olitical party cards are totally fraudulent. Most parties do not have any documentation of their members and generally do not issue membership cards. Some local units may provide one to their local members but there is little authenticity of these. (11 Apr. 2014)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). 14 April 2014. Telephone interview with a representative.

Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. 11 April 2014. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Canada. 21 April 2014. Canada High Commission in New Delhi. Correspondence from an official to the Research Directorate.

Deccan Chronicle. 22 April 2012. "New Passport Without Valid Documents for Rs35k in Kerala." (Factiva)

Herald. 3 October 2013. "Obtaining Ration Cards, Genuine or Bogus, Easy." (Factiva)

Herald. 10 September 2013. "UIDAI Cautioned on Bogus Ration Cards." (Factiva)

The Hindu. 25 May 2013. S. Vijay Kumar. "MEA Revokes 127 Passports Issued in State." (Factiva)

The Hindu. 2 May 2012. "Four Passport Office Employees Arrested." (Factiva)

The Hindu. 26 April 2012. "No Reliable System to Verify Documents." (Factiva)

Hindustan Times. 10 March 2014. "3 Arrested for Making Fake Voter ID Cards." (Factiva)

India. N.d. Unique Identification Authority of India. "Aapka Aadhaar." [Accessed 5 May 2014]

Kashmir Images. 24 August 2012. "Watch Out for the Fake!" (Factiva)

Mail Today. 14 August 2013. Kumar Vikram. "Massive Fraud and Bogus Voter IDs." (Factiva)

Mail Today. 6 July 2013. Piyush Srivastava. "ISI Agents Among Passport Holders from Lucknow." (Factiva)

The Pioneer. 8 August 2013. Pramod Kumar Singh. "1 Aadhar Card Generates 30 Voter Cards." (Factiva)

Press Trust of India. 7 February 2014. "3 Arrested for Preparing Fake Documents." (Factiva)

The Statesman. 12 January 2013. "Rs 2,500 Gets Bangla Man a UID." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 12 March 2014. "2 Held at Airport for Carrying Fake Indian Passports." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 25 September 2013. "Gang Dealing in Fake Degrees Busted." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 23 September 2013. "Fake Birth-Paper Racket Busted at KMC Head Office." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 8 August 2013. V. Narayan. "Woman Submits Fake Bail Papers, Arrested." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 17 June 2013. "Two Held in Fake Certificate Racket." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 20 May 2012. Daniel P. George. "Pay Three Times More, Get Passport in Half the Time." (Factiva)

The Times of India. 24 April 2012. Lawrence Milton. "Immigrants Hold Fake IDs." (Factiva)

Transparency International (TI) India. 23 April 2014. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Transparency International (TI) India. N.d. "Introduction." [Accessed 23 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014a. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014b. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014c. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014d. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014e. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014f. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

XE. 28 April 2014g. "XE Currency Converter." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2014]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives of the following organizations were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Centre for Public Affairs; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Asian Centre for Human Rights;; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; India – Embassy of India in Ottawa, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Justice, National Crime Records Bureau; Interpol; United Nations – Refworld, UN Office of Drugs and Crime; US – Department of State.