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10 September 2018

IND106148.E

India: Exit controls and security measures for Indian citizens leaving the country, including use of computerized identity verification; information sharing between police, security and airport officials, including access to the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS); travel restrictions placed upon persons of interest to authorities (2016-September 2018)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Exit Controls and Security Measures
1.1 Airports

According to the website of the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), an "[i]mmigration check" is conducted at the time of departure for all travellers leaving India (India 5 Apr. 2014). According to the same source,

Indian nationals travelling abroad require a valid Indian passport and travel authority for the destination country.

The travel authority is normally in the form of [a] [v]isa, which is obtained prior to the journey, except in [the] case of countries where [a] "Visa on Arrival" is available. (India 19 July 2018)

According to the government of Canada's travel.gc.ca website, "[a]ll passengers boarding flights in India must present their tickets or printouts of their e-tickets, along with photographic identification, to be allowed into the departure terminals" (Canada 24 Aug. 2018). According to Air India's security regulations, "[a]ll [p]assengers [are] subjected to a security screening prior to boarding the aircraft" (Air India n.d.). According to the same source, passengers' tickets are checked "at the entrance of the terminal building by the security staff" and passengers with an e-ticket are required to "bring a printed itinerary along with a photo ID like a government issued photo ID, driv[er's] license, [Permanent Account Number (PAN)] card with photo, passport, credit card with photo[,] etc." (Air India n.d.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an advocate who practices in the field of criminology and human rights and who is part of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association in Chandigarh, stated, while speaking on his own behalf, that "[o]nce a traveller enters the airport, he goes through the immigration check, wherein the electronic verification [of the] passport is [done] and a picture of the traveller is taken" (Advocate 24 Aug. 2018). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) and the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) [1] stated that "[a]ll Indian citizens leaving the country from any of the airports, seaports and land ports are required to go through exhaustive security and verification processes, including computerized examination of their passports" (ICM 21 Aug. 2018). According to an MHA report published along with the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) [2] on the E-Governance Mission Mode Project (MMP) in Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking,

[e]very incoming and outgoing traveller's personal details are matched against the MHA originated and BoI enhanced [Black List (BL)/Look Out Circular (LOC)] database, available at the [Immigration Check Post] counter through the Immigration Control System (ICS). [The] [i]mmigration official either swipes travellers' passport[s] in [the] Passport Reading Machine (PRM) or directly enters travellers' personal details into the ICS to obtain results. (India n.d., 26)

According to the same source, "[i]n [the] case of Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) [3] compliant airports, [i]mmigration officials receive APIS data that is matched against the BL/LOC database to support targeted interventions" (India n.d., 26). The same source adds that "[APIS] has been introduced at 6 airports[,] namely Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Cochin" (India n.d., 30). The Times News Network (TNN), an Indian news agency, reports that in May 2015, APIS was introduced at the Sri Guru Ram Das Ji International airport in Amritsar and that the system was "already operational at major airports of the country[,] including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad" (TNN 10 May 2015). Further information on Immigration Check Posts, the ICS and the APIS could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the ICM Executive Director, "[e]very Indian passenger … has to fill out a [D]eparture [C]ard giving her/his name, date of birth, passport number, address in India and flight details. There are repeated checks of identity documents/passport at each stage of movement through the air/sea port" (ICM 21 Aug. 2018). The website of the BoI of the MHA states that Indian passengers "have to fill [out] Departure Cards at the time of [d]eparture" (India 5 Apr. 2014). According to sources, a Departure Card contains the following information:

  • Name;
  • Date of birth;
  • Passport number;
  • Address in India;
  • Flight number;
  • Date of boarding (India 5 Apr. 2014; TNN 20 June 2017; PTI 19 June 2017).

According to media sources, as of 1 July 2017, Departure Cards were no longer necessary for Indians departing by plane (TNN 20 June 2017; PTI 19 June 2017). The same sources state that, according to the MHA, the rationale for discontinuing the practice is that "'[t]he same information (about the passengers) is available in the system from other sources'" (TNN 20 June 2017; PTI 19 June 2017).

According to the website of the BoI of the MHA, passports are "duly stamped" at the time of departure (India 5 Apr. 2014). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

For information on agencies responsible for security screening at Indian airports, see Response to Information Request IND105780 of April 2017.

1.2 Land Borders

According to the ICM Executive Director, India has

fairly nebulous borders and border movement arrangements with some of [its] neighbours, including in particular Nepal and Myanmar, where documentation requirements are rudimentary, and "informal" crossing from points other than the authorized border checkpoints is common. This results in significant undocumented movement across borders from these countries, as well as considerable illegal border crossings with all of India's neighbours. (ICM 21 Aug. 2018)

Other sources indicate that India has "open borders" with Nepal and Bhutan (The Economic Times 13 July 2018a; The Tribune 21 Dec. 2017). According to the Indian newspaper The Economic Times, "citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and India do not need [a] passport or visa to cross the international borders between them" (The Economic Times 13 July 2018a).

CNN reports that, according to the Indian government, approximately 90 percent of India's border with Pakistan and Bangladesh is "currently fenced" (CNN 29 Mar. 2017). According to the Economic Times, reporting in July 2018, the Indian government was planning "to seal the international border with Pakistan … soon" (The Economic Times 13 July 2018b). Similarly, in an article focusing on India's borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh, CNN indicates that India was planning to seal the remainder of the border "by the end of 2018" (CNN 29 Mar. 2017). According to sources, the border area between India and Pakistan in Kashmir is "one of the most militarized" (Reuters 29 Sept. 2016) or "the most intensively manned and militarised border" in the world (BBC 30 Jan. 2018).

According to sources, India's border with Bangladesh is "porous" (The Jamestown Foundation 29 June 2018; The New Indian Express 16 Sept. 2017; Hindustan Times 20 Apr. 2018). According to the Indian newspaper the Hindustan Times, "[s]ome parts of the India-Bangladesh border have electrified fences and if the stationed officers are 'cooperative,' these will be switched off at particular times to let illegal migrants leave one country and enter another" (Hindustan Times 20 Apr. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

TNN states that, according to an order issued by the MHA, "those travelling out of the country via rail, sea ports and land immigration check-posts will have to fill [out] the embarkation card" (TNN 20 June 2017). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Travel Restrictions Placed Upon Persons of Interest

According to the advocate, "[p]olice officials are able to place travel restrictions on person[s] of interest. [Persons of interest] are asked to deposit their passport or otherwise made to appear regularly before the officials" (Advocate 24 Aug. 2018). For further information on seizures and impounding of passports, see Response to Information Request IND105496 of May 2016.

In response to a question about the ability of police to place travel restrictions upon persons of interest, the ICM Executive Director indicated that

[a]ll District Superintendents of the police (as well as authorities from a range of other departments, including, for instance, the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax, Customs, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Ministry of External Affairs, etc.) may approach the [MHA] to request [the issuing] of a[n] [LOC] by the [BoI of the MHA], relating to persons of interest. Courts also have the power to direct the Police to request [the issuing] of a[n] [LOC] for individuals under trial, and those who fail to respond to non-bailable warrants. State police agencies may also approach the Intelligence Bureau (also an agency of the [MHA]) for restrictions against particular individuals under investigation, or against fugitives, and lists of such individuals are once again directed to the [BoI]. (ICM 21 Aug. 2018)

Other sources also report that the Indian government compiles names of people to be barred from leaving the country (PTI 12 Mar. 2015; Bloomberg 15 Mar. 2018; The Indian Express 26 Feb. 2018). According to Press Trust of India (PTI), an Indian news agency, LOCs are "issued by enforcement agencies to all exit and entry points to inform them about the movement of an accused" (PTI 15 Feb. 2018). Hindustan Times cites a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) source as stating that "LOCs are issued to alert immigration authorities to prevent 'any absconding criminal or person required by enforcement authorities' from leaving the country" (Hindustan Times 10 Mar. 2016). According to Indian news magazine India Today, an LOC "ensures that the person concerned cannot leave an airport without informing the authorities first" (India Today 7 Apr. 2018). According to Indian newspaper The Indian Express, "[t]he blacklist maintained by the Indian government is reviewed from time to time, and name[s] of individuals are added or deleted on the recommendations made by central agencies or state police" (The Indian Express 26 Feb. 2018). According to the same source, the list, which is "not in the public domain,"

is maintained by the Foreigners Division of the [MHA]. It is sent to all Indian diplomatic missions across the world, as well as to immigration checkposts within the country. At present, there are nearly 30,000 individuals, including foreign nationals, in the blacklist database of the MHA. The list was pruned from 38,000 in 2016. (The Indian Express 26 Feb. 2018)

Sources indicate that LOCs are valid for one year, but may be extended (Hindustan Times 10 Mar. 2016; ICM 21 Aug. 2018; The Indian Express 26 Feb. 2018).

According to the advocate, a person being investigated or sought by the authorities in India would not be able to depart through normal exit controls (Advocate 24 Aug. 2018). When asked whether a person being investigated or sought by the authorities in India would be able to depart through normal exit controls, the ICM Executive Director stated that

[LOCs] are only issued in a very small proportion of cases, against specific requests by an officer no less in rank than a Deputy Secretary of the Government of India, a Joint Secretary of a State Government, a Superintendent of Police, or a Judicial Magistrate. [LOC] notices are not issued in the case of an overwhelming proportion of individuals charged, and even of proclaimed fugitives/absconders. No laid-down norms govern the issu[ing] of such notices and it is generally "high profile cases," i.e., cases that catch media attention or that are politically sensitive or that involve high profile crimes with imminent flight risk, which are notified. Most persons under investigation would not be prevented from departing the country, unless they fall into these narrow categories. Indeed, even in cases involving high profile individuals, there are many who manage to escape criminal proceedings by fleeing abroad as a result of collusion and corruption in the system of issu[ance] of [LOCs]. (ICM 21 Aug. 2018)

Media sources report the use of [LOCs] for suspects of crimes in 2018 (TNN 2 Apr. 2018; The Hindu 31 Aug. 2018; The New Indian Express 10 Aug. 2018). Hindustan Times reports on a case in which, according to the CBI, a suspect of alleged "wilful default" was able to leave India in March 2016 despite the issuance of an LOC in October 2015 (Hindustan Times 10 Mar. 2016). In the same article, Hindustan Times cites a CBI source as stating that "'[d]ue to the circular, [the suspect] should have been stopped from leaving the country's borders and authorities should have been alerted about his move in real time'" (Hindustan Times 10 Mar. 2016). In an article describing the issuance of an LOC for a murder suspect, the TNN cites a police officer as stating that "the suspect might have arrived and departed via Kathmandu and crossed the border by road" (TNN 2 Apr. 2018).

3. Information Sharing Between the Police and Security Officials with Airport Officials

When asked about the extent of information sharing between the police and/or security officials with airport officials, the ICM Executive Director stated that

[t]he system is heavily bureaucratized and fragmented. Policing, within the Indian constitutional framework is a State subject, while airports are controlled by central agencies (Ministry of Civil Aviation is the nodal [ministry] that coordinates with the Ministries of Home, Finance and Defence on various issues). All interaction between the State police apparatus and the airport security system is mediated by a range of central agencies, with the [MHA] as the nodal point of interaction. [The] State police also interact with the Intelligence Bureau and the [CBI] (the latter, for international "Red Corner" notices [4]) in connection with restraints on the movement of fugitives or individuals under investigations, and it is these agencies that actually draw up lists that eventually lead to the "[LOCs]" issued by the [BoI of the MHA] or INTERPOL, which are received by airport security and verification staff. (ICM 21 Aug. 2018)

According to sources, the CCTNS is not integrated with the airport security apparatus (Advocate 24 Aug. 2018; ICM 21 Aug. 2018). The ICM Executive Director explained that

[i]f a "suspect" is detained at the airport, officials may approach the National Crime Records Bureau, the executive agency managing the CCTNS project, to see if the individual is in its database. This is not a live process, and would involve a significant response time for a manual recovery of information from the database, and a formal response. While no data is publicly available, it is unlikely that this option is being used in any substantial proportion of cases. (ICM 21 Aug. 2018)

For further information on the CCTNS and the status of its implementation, see Response to Information Request IND106120 of June 2018.

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.

Notes

[1] The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) is a project of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), which is a "non-profit [s]ociety" "committed to the continous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia," including in India (ICM n.d.).

[2] The National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) is a not-for-profit organization that works as an "advisory and consulting body to the [Indian] Central Government, State Governments and [public sector undertakings] in their endeavor to adopt and implement [information and communication technology (ICT)] solutions to improve service delivery and efficiency of the departments" (NISG n.d.).

[3] According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), "Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) data is used for risk assessment of passengers by running watch list, profiling and social network analysis checks and responding through automatic alerts to immigration officers before the arrival of the passengers. This information is used to make informed decisions on suspicious travellers and separate them from legitimate travellers for intervention at the border" (India n.d., 33).

[4] A Red Corner Notice or Red Notice is "a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition. It is issued by the General Secretariat [of INTERPOL] at the request of a member country or an international tribunal based on a valid national arrest warrant. It is not an international arrest warrant" (INTERPOL n.d.). According to INTERPOL, "Red Notices are issued for individuals sought for prosecution or to serve a sentence. When the individual is sought for prosecution it means they are suspected of committing a crime but have not yet been prosecuted and so should be considered innocent until proven guilty" (INTERPOL n.d.).

References

Advocate, Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, Chandigarh. 24 August 2018. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Air India. N.d. Security Regulations. [Accessed 30 Aug. 2018]

Bloomberg. 15 March 2018. "Government May Ban 91 Defaulters from Leaving India." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 30 January 2018. Ajai Shukla. "Viewpoint: India and Pakistan Up the Ante on Disputed Border." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018]

Cable News Network (CNN). 29 March 2017. Huizhong Wu. "India Wants to Seal Its Borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018]

Canada. 24 August 2018. Travel.gc.ca. "India." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

The Economic Times. 13 July 2018a. Debasis Sarkar. "India Must Check Who Comes In Through Its Open International Borders." [Accessed 15 Aug. 2018]

The Economic Times. 13 July 2018b. Rahul Tripathi. "2,300 km International Border with Pakistan to be Sealed Soon." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018]

The Hindu. 31 August 2018. Gautam S. Mengle. "Police Find 3 Victims of Card Cloning Racket." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

Hindustan Times. 20 April 2018. Aritra Hazra and Faisal Tandel. "How Illegal Bangladeshis Entering India from Porous Borders Are Keeping Maharashtra ATS on Toes." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2018]

Hindustan Times. 10 March 2016. Abhishek Sharan, Rocky Soibam Singh and Kalyan Subramani. "Vijay Mallya Left Country in Spite of Look-Out Notice Against Him by CBI." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

India. 19 July 2018. Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration. "Indian Passengers." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

India. 5 April 2014. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Bureau of Immigration. "General Information/Instruction." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

India. N.d. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). E-Governance Mission Mode Project (MMP) in Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking. [Accessed 31 Aug. 2018]

The Indian Express. 26 February 2018. Rahul Tripathi. "Understanding India's 'Blacklist': What It Is, Who Are Included in It." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

India Today. 7 April 2018. Meetu Jain. "CBI Alerts Airports. Chanda, Deepak, Venugopal Can't Leave India Without Informing Authorities." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

Institute for Conflict Management (ICM). 21 August 2018. Correspondence from the Executive Director to the Research Directorate.

Institute for Conflict Management (ICM). N.d. "Institute for Conflict Management - An Introduction." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2018]

International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). N.d. "Red Notices." [Accessed 24 Aug. 2018]

The Jamestown Foundation. 29 June 2018. Animesh Roul. "Fugitive Bangladeshi Militants Bring Jamaat ul Mujahideen to India." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2018]

National Institute for Smart Government (NISG). N.d. "About NISG." [Accessed 31 Aug. 2018]

The New Indian Express. 10 August 2018. Jayanthi Pawar. "Thirumurugan Gandhi Held in Bengaluru for UN Speech on Police Firing in Thoothukudi." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

The New Indian Express. 16 September 2017. Vikram Sharma. "Poor and Porous: Why India Needs to Tighten Up Its Border Management." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2018]

Press Trust of India (PTI). 15 February 2018. "Nirav Modi, Wife Left India in First Week of January, CBI Issues Look Out Circular." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

Press Trust of India (PTI). 19 June 2017. "No Departure Cards for Those Flying Abroad from July 1." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

Press Trust of India (PTI). 12 March 2015. "HC Quashes Look Out Circular Against Greenpeace Activist." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

Reuters. 29 September 2016. "India Says It Launched Strikes in Pakistan-Controlled Kashmir." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018]

Times News Network (TNN). 2 April 2018. "Lookout Circular Issued for Suspect Who Fled Country." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2018]

Times News Network (TNN). 20 June 2017. Rakesh Prakash. "From July 1, Flyers Won't Have to Fill Departure Forms." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

Times News Network (TNN). 10 May 2015. "Customs Introduces APIS at Amritsar Airport." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2018]

The Tribune. 21 December 2017. Prateek Chauhan. "Laser Fence Along Nepal, Bhutan Borders Soon." [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Academics specializing in police and security issues in India; Airports Authority of India; Asian Human Rights Commission; Bengaluru airport; Centre for International Governance Innovation; Centre for Internet and Society; Centre for Policy Research; Centre for Public Affairs; Chennai airport; Ensaaf; Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; former police officers in India; India – Bureau of Immigration, Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Industrial Security Force, Defence Research and Development Organization, Embassy in Washington DC, High Commission in Ottawa, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs, Sashastra Seema Bal; Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; Kolkata airport; lawyer at the judicial civil courts in Punjab; lawyers specializing in immigration law; Ludhiana airport; Mumbai airport; New Delhi airport; research scholar at the Centre for Study of Social Systems; Sardar Patel University of Police, Security and Criminal Justice; Transparency International India.

Internet sites, including: Centre for Policy Research; ecoi.net; The Economist; First Post; The Independent; India – Airports Authority of India, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, Central Bureau of Investigation, High Commission in Ottawa, Ministry of Civil Aviation; The Jerusalem Post; Lonely Planet; Mumbai airport; NBC; New Delhi airport; Sardar Patel University of Police; Transparency International India; UN – Refworld; US – Department of State; The Washington Post.