For the past few days, newsrooms in India have been abuzz with the chatter of a Passport Seva Kendra officer allegedly harassing an inter-faith couple in Lucknow. Regional Passport officer Piyush Verma was accused of moral policing the woman applicant over her marital status. It was also alleged that the officer asked her husband to "convert" to Hinduism.
Once the applicant took to Twitter, that really set tongues wagging. Of course, such behaviour is not acceptable from any government official and calls for action. The outrage over the incident on social media whipped up a frenzy on TV and print news as well.
Tanvi Seth and Mohammad Anas Siddiqui.
Defending his actions on live television, the officer said he was only doing his duty of verifying names of the applicant. According to him, she used two names for two different documents presented and he was simply trying to verify it. He said there were some issues with their residential address, chiefly because they were not residents of Lucknow or neighbourhood. Later, an eyewitness reportedly confirmed that the officer had not misbehaved with the applicants.
But it seems it was already too late.
While the couple, Tanvi Seth and her husband Mohammad Anas Siddiqui, were given passports after the controversy broke out, Mishra was temporarily transferred to Gorakhpur pending the investigation.
The row took a new turn when Union minister Sushma Swaraj faced a volley of hate messages that accused the MEA of indulging in "appeasement" by acting on a complaint given by the couple.
Many accused Swaraj of "punishing an honest officer" for doing his duty.
On Wednesday (July 27), the Uttar Pradesh police informed the Regional Passport Office that, Tanvi Seth does not stay at the address mentioned by her in the passport form. Seth, according to the the report, does not live at the Lucknow address for the past one year but instead was living in Noida.
In our investigation, we found out that Tanvi Seth has not been staying at the current mentioned address for a year. We have sent our report to the Regional Passport Office, further investigation will be done by them: Deepak Kumar, SSP. Lucknow on Inter-faith couple passport row pic.twitter.com/eHwpp63TgE— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) June 26, 2018
Does that mean, even if unintentionally, the applicants "misled" the authorities? Does it amount to providing false information? Do we owe an apology to the officer?
People on social media assume the role of the judge, jury and executioner at times. Although some campaigns in the past have managed to raise the right concerns, but that's not true always. The speed at which news spreads on such platforms and the effect and hold social media has on people, maybe a bit of caution will be nice.