On Monday, the Patna High Court observed that the mere relinquishment of foreign citizenship, even if the couple has been a long resident of India, would not automatically confer on a person, Indian Citizenship.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar made the above observations during the hearing of a plea by a woman who was born a Nepali citizen, whose election as the Mukhiya of a Gram Panchayat was challenged on the ground that she was not an Indian citizen. The bench stated that she would not become an Indian citizen just because she has a voter ID or married to an Indian citizen.
“Mere registration of a person’s name in the voter list, ipso facto, does not confer citizenship. It explained that the enrolment in a voter list is based on the applicant filing a declaration with the authorities, stating that they are a citizen of India,” asserted the bench. Further, the bench also reiterated that documents such as Voter ID, PAN Card, and Aadhaar would not either constitute the proof of citizenship.
Given that the woman had never made any application to become an Indian citizen, the High Court affirmed the State Election Commission’s decision to set aside her election to the Panchayat on the ground that she was disqualified for not being an Indian citizen. Further, the Court also rejected the submissions that the woman’s Indian citizenship can be gauged from her Voter ID, PAN card, Aadhaar, and other documents.
As per the case, a woman named Kiran Gupta who was born as a Nepali citizen had in 2003, married an Indian citizen. In 2016, she formally relinquished her Nepali citizenship. However, she never formally made an application for citizenship under the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955.
The Court noted that under the Indian Citizenship Act, a foreigner who marries an Indian citizen has an option of applying for Indian citizenship, provided that he/she has been residing in India for at least the preceding seven years and thus, the Central Government has the discretion to grant Indian Citizenship in accordance with the law.
Also, the Court added that unless such an application is decided, the mere filing of an application does not confer any right of Citizenship either.
“The Citizenship Act does not provide for a scenario where a person residing in India, upon relinquishing her/his original Citizenship is automatically considered to be a citizen of India. The possibility of a person, though not the appellant, migrating to a third country cannot be ruled out. As such, continuous and uninterrupted stay in India cannot be a factor determining, in anticipation, of a person choosing to exercise right seeking Citizenship under the Citizenship Act,” held the court while rejecting the plea.