Incidence of forged driver's licences and authentic driver's licences obtained by fraudulent means; the security measures integrated into driver's licences (2003 - 2005) [IND100658.E.]

2 December 2005


India: Incidence of forged driver's licences and authentic driver's licences obtained by fraudulent means; the security measures integrated into driver's licences (2003 - 2005)
Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

Forged Driver's Licences

A survey of news articles revealed that Indian police uncovered numerous forged driver's licences production operations for the period 2003 to 2005 (The Hindu 31 Jan. 2005; ibid. 21 Feb. 2005; The Times of India 29 Apr. 2005; Hindustan Times 28 Apr. 2005; ibid. 30 Jan. 2005). According to a resident of Punjab state who has worked as a truck driver for over 35 years, "one can easily procure a driving licence [in Punjab]" (The Telegraph 23 May 2004).

Forged driver's licences have been used for a number of reasons in India, including to conceal the identity of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (Hindustan Times 7 Mar. 2005) and Babbar Khalsa (ibid. 1 June 2005; The Statesman 2 June 2005) militants, to open a bank account (ibid. 4 June 2004), to prepare false sureties to bail out an individual accused before a court (The Times of India 29 Apr. 2005; Hindustan Times 28 Apr. 2005) and to buy cellular phone cards (ibid. 11 Apr. 2003).

Media reports also revealed that forged driver's licences were confiscated by police in a number of locations in India: Chennai (The Hindu 21 Feb. 2005; The Times of India 14 July 2004), Calcutta (The Statesman 4 June 2004), Lucknow (Hindustan Times 28 Apr. 2005; The Times of India 29 Apr. 2005), Inderpuri (The Statesman 2 June 2005; Hindustan Times 1 June 2005), Patna (The Times of India 11 Feb. 2005), Delhi (Hindustan Times 30 Jan. 2005; ibid. 11 Apr. 2003; ibid. 7 Mar. 2005; The Hindu 31 Jan. 2005) and New Delhi (The Tribune 8 June 2005). According to officials at the Regional Transport Office in Chennai, which was allegedly implicated in a forged driver's licence scheme, "it is very difficult even for [a] law enforcement agency like [the] police to differentiate between those 'procured' licences and the original ones that we issue" (The Times of India 14 July 2004).

Authentic Driver's Licences Obtained by Fraudulent Means

No information on authentic driver's licences obtained by fraudulent means could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Security Measures Integrated into Driver's Licences

The 1988 Motor Vehicles Act states that the central government determines the form and content of driver's licences (India 1988). The 1989 Central Motor Vehicles Act outlines that "every driving licence issued or renewed by a licensing authority shall be in Form 6" (ibid. 1989), and "where the licensing authority has the necessary apparatus,...the issue of a laminated card type or Smart Card type driving licence [will be done using] Form 7" (ibid.).

The Indian government adopted the Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications (SCOSTA) as the national standard format for driver's licences and vehicle registration (India n.d.a; Asia Times Online 2 Oct. 2004; IITK n.d.), with one of the purposes being to standardize and secure the information of the Department of Transport (ibid.).

Although smart cards can serve many purposes (Asia Times Online 2 Oct. 2004), in this case they are "a [driver's] licence, registration and insurance document rolled into one" (Hindustan Times 7 Jan. 2005). The Website of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the organization that developed SCOSTA, states that smart cards "are secured electronic devices that are used for keeping data and other information in a way that only 'authorized' users are permitted to see or write the data" (IITK n.d.). In addition, "the application specifications...include secure key management systems that ensure...that only officials authorized to change the card data can do so and that it is not possible to create forged ... cards" (ibid.). However, Privacy International, "a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations" (PI n.d.), warns that the creation of forged smart cards is possible (Asia Times Online 2 Oct. 2004).

Capable of storing up to eight megabytes of data (Asia Pulse 14 Sept. 2005), smart cards have a small gold plate about 0.5 inches (1.3 centimetres) in diameter on the front of the card, which, when inserted into a smart card reader, makes contact with electrical connectors that allow for the transfer of the data to and from the card via the reader (The Tribune 22 Oct. 2001). These smart cards store vehicle registration data, as well as data on the owner of the vehicle, while cardholder information is printed on the front the card (AFX Asia 4 Apr. 2005).

New Delhi and Gujarat (ibid.) state governments have already introduced smart card-based driver's licences and vehicle registration (Asia Times Online 2 Oct. 2004; Frontline 2005). All smart card-based driver's licences issued in different states are to be SCOSTA compliant (India n.d.a). However, one news article reported that some of the smart cards already issued in India fail to comply with the original basic guidelines for the cards (Frontline 2005).

According to the Website of Delhi state government, driver's licences that are not of the smart card type are laminated and contain a photograph of the cardholder (India n.d.b). Further information on the physical characteristics and security measures of non-smart card type licences could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


AFX Asia. 4 April 2005. "Gemplus Delivers 100,000 Optical Cards to State of New Delhi." (Factiva)

Asia Pulse. 14 September 2005. "India's Smart Card Base Forecast to Hit 400 Mln by 2009." (Factiva)

Asia Times Online. 2 October 2004. Raja M. "Smart Cards Make Inroads into Asia." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

Frontline. 2005. R. Ramachandran, Venkitesh Ramakrishnan. "A Digital Pandora's Box." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

The Hindu. 21 February 2005. "Fake Driving Licence Racket Busted, Five Held." (NEXIS)

_____. 31 January 2005. "Fake Driving Licence Racket Smashed." (NEXIS)

Hindustan Times. 1 June 2005. "RDX Found from Hideout." (Factiva)

_____. 28 Apr. 2005. "Cops Swoop on Local Telgis." (NEXIS)

_____. 7 March 2005. "Militants Tried to Get Indian Citizenship." (NEXIS)

_____. 30 January 2005. "Fake Licence, Certificate Racket Busted." (Factiva)

_____. 7 January 2005. Amitabh Shukla. "Smart Cards for All Vehicles Soon." (Factiva)

_____. 11 April 2003. "Arrested Hoax Caller Wanted to Land Ex-Partners in Trouble." (Factiva)

India. 1988. Department of Road Transport and Highways. The Motor Vehicles Act. [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

_____. N.d.a. Department of Information Technology. "Smart Card Initiative." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

_____. N.d.b. Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Transport Department. "Permanent Licence." [Accessed 26 Nov. 2005]

Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IITK). N.d. "SCOSTA: Introduction." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

Privacy International. N.d. "About Privacy International." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

The Statesman [India]. 2 June 2005. "Briefs." (NEXIS)

_____. 4 June 2004. "Two Arrested in Netbanking Fraud." (NEXIS)

The Telegraph [Calcutta]. 23 May 2004. "Truckers Caught Between Cops and Thieves." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2005]

The Times of India. 29 Apr. 2005. "Major Racket in Fake Bails Busted." (NEXIS)

_____. 11 February 2005. Sanjay Singh. "Credit Card Scam Busted, 3 Held." (NEXIS)

_____. 14 July 2004. Rajesh Chandramouli. "A Photo, A Name, Rs 2,500 Cash = Driving Licence." (Factiva)

The Tribune. 8 June 2005. "Fake Driving Licence Racket Busted." [Accessed 15 Nov. 2005]

_____. 22 October 2001. Vandana Paul. "Smart Fellows with Smart Cards in E-Wallets." [Accessed 28 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sources, including: Amnesty International; British Broadcasting Corporation; Confederation of Human Rights Organizations Kerala, India; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; Freedom House; Government of India Department of Transport; European Country of Origin Information Network; High Commission of India in Ottawa; Human Rights Watch; Keesings Reference Services; South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; United Kingdom India Country Report; United Kingdom India Operation Guidance Notes.