‘Factchecker’ gets it wrong: Fact-checks PM Modi based on misreporting of passport rules

Yesterday, PTI reported that PM Modi had made an announcement regarding the passport rules:

On the face of it, this is a welcome move cutting read tape. But many on social media were unimpressed. Reactions of users suggested that such a provision in the passport rules had existed for a long time.

Factchechecker.in, a website that claims to check claims made by all and sundry (although it has been debunked on OpIndia.com earlier), latched onto this and ran a report:

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A cursory glance would suggest that Factchecker.in had caught PM Modi on the wrong foot. In the same article though, was this paragraph:

The Prime Minister also said that “women don’t have to submit marriage/divorce certificate for passport”.

It appears that PM Modi is referring to the changes in the passport rules notified by the external affairs ministry in December 2016.

So, it appears that PM Modi made 2 statements, one of which was wrong, and the second referred to a recent change in the rule. But if we look at the video (from approximately 19.45 minutes) of this speech, something different emerges. A verbatim transcript:

An important change has been made to the Passport rules too. Now a woman, need not furnish a copy of her marriage or divorce certificate. It will be her discretion as to use her father’s name or mother’s name in the passport.

These are the only lines related to the passport rules in the entire video. Now compare this quote, with the quote mentioned by PTI in the NDTV tweet, and also with the ANI tweet. There is a small but subtle difference: contrary to what PTI reported, PM Modi never said “women need not change their names in passport after marriage anymore”. Instead he specified only that certain documentation rules have been relaxed.

So to summarize: PTI wrongly quoted the Prime Minister. NDTV tweeted the same. Factchecker, instead of checking the facts, trusted the NDTV tweet of the PTI quote as gospel truth, and on that basis ran a story whose title said that Modi had got something wrong. But the fact is, Modi had never said it!

And further down in the same article, Factchecker mentioned that the ANI quote (which it claimed was a quote in addition to the PTI quote), was correct and was related to a change made in the passport rules a few months ago. Thus, Factchecker themselves have certified that the PM got this part right, and as we can see now, this was the ONLY thing he said relating to passports!

Factchecker.in should start taking its name a bit more seriously.

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