Mere registration of a person’s name in the voter list, ipso facto, does not confer Citizenship
The Patna High Court has ruled that a foreign national doesn’t automatically become an Indian citizen on marriage with a citizen.
Brief Facts of the Case
- Kiran Gupta, who was born and brought up in Nepal, married one Ashok Prasad Gupta in 2003 and after that started permanently residing with him in India as his wife.
- Subsequent to her marriage, she, (a) got her name entered into the voters list prepared in the year 2008 for elections to the Assembly of Bihar; (b)in her name she has (i) an account with a bank in India, (ii) a Pan Card issued by the Income Tax Department, and (iii) an Aadhaar Card.
- In 2018, she was elected as a Mukhiya of Gram Panchayat.
- State Election Commission set aside the election under Section 136(1) of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 2006 on the ground of her not being an Indian citizen.
- Aggrieved by the order of the Election Commission, she filed a writ petition in the High Court contending that she voluntarily surrender Citizenship of Nepal and therefore has got hold of Indian Citizenship.
Observation of Court
The court made the following observations:
- 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. 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.
- The foreign national does not become an Indian citizen on marriage with a citizen under the Act. After the marriage, the foreign national has an option to get registered as an Indian citizen. Even then, the person must fulfil the requirement of residency before they can apply for Indian Citizenship.
- Mere registration of a person’s name in the voter list, ipso facto, does not confer Citizenship. The purpose of the PAN card is to facilitate the payment of taxes to the Indian State, which foreigners may also be required to pay…The eligibility criteria for obtaining an Aadhaar Card is residency in India for a period of 182 days or more, not citizenship. Section 9 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 clearly states that an Aadhaar number or authentication thereof shall not by itself confer any right of or be proof of Citizenship or domicile of the Aadhaar number holder. Banking regulations under the RBI are silent on bank accounts or documents as proof of Citizenship. For Prevention of Money Laundering, proof of identity and address is required from persons opening bank accounts. However, Citizenship is not a criterion for having a bank account in India. Voter ID cards are not incontrovertible evidence of Indian Citizenship- presumption attached to the issuance of the voter ID card may be challenged by a complaint that states material facts under Section 136 of the Panchayat Act.
- The bench dismissed the plea and directed the Central Government to grant the petitioner Indian citizenship, it observed:
However, in light of the peculiar situation of the petitioner; her ordinary residence and family life in India; and India’s international law obligations to prevent statelessness, we direct that upon receipt of the petitioner’s application, if so filed, the appropriate authority may consider her application expeditiously, keeping in mind the complications that have emerged in her legal status.
- The court consequently noted that the State Election Commission was authorized to set aside the election on the grounds specified under Section 136(1) of the Panchayat Act of her not being an Indian citizen.
Case name: Kiran Gupta vs. State Election Commission
Case no.: Letters Patent Appeal No.139 of 2020
Coram: Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar