On 12th October 2020, Patna High Court held that a foreign national does not automatically become an Indian citizen after marriage with a citizen. The two judge Bench also noted that the mere possession of a Pan Card; a voter ID card; or an Aadhar Card can’t be said to be a proof of Indian Citizenship.

While entertaining a Letter Patent Appeal, the Court dealt with the issue of whether the Appellant is a citizen of India or not. The Appellant in the present case is a girl who was born and brought up in Nepal, who married an Indian in 2003 and started residing with him in India as his wife. Subsequently she got her Voter ID Card, Pan Card, Aadhaar card, etc. In 2018 she was elected as a ‘mukhiya’ of the Gram Panchayat. The State Election Commission set aside her election under section 136(1) of Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 2006 on the ground of her not being an Indian Citizen. The Appellant thereafter approached Bihar Court against the order of the Election Commission, wherein she that she had voluntarily relinquished citizenship of Nepal and had thus acquired Indian Citizenship. A single Bench dismissed the Appellant’s writ petition on the ground that she was not a citizen of India, which disqualified her under the Panchayat Act.

The Court while entertaining the present Appeal referred to the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of State Trading Corporation of India Ltd. v. Commercial Tax Officer & Ors., AIR 1963 SC 1811. The Court in the said matter held that the Citizenship Act doesn’t provide for a scenario in which a person residing in India is automatically considered to be citizen of India by relinquishing her/his original citizenship as the possibility of the Appellant migrating to a third country can’t be completely ignored. Also, a continuous and uninterrupted stay in India can’t be a determining factor in keenness of a person choosing to exercise his right to seek citizenship under the Citizenship Act.

The Court while dealing with the contention that she possessed various documents such as Voter ID, Aadhar Card and Pan Card held that mere possession of such documents cannot be said to be proof of Indian Citizenship referring to the judgements of Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India (2007) 1 SCC 174 and Rupjan Begum v. Union of India (2018) 1 SCC 579 reasoned the following:

  • The court stated that 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 criterial for obtaining an Aadhar Card is residency in India for a period of 182 days or more and not citizenship. The Court also held that section 9 of the Aadhar Act, 2016 clearly states that an Aadhar number or authentication thereof shall not by any right of or proof of the citizenship.
  • 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.

Therefore the Hon’ble High Court in the present Appeal observations that a mere relinquishment of citizenship of some other country doesn’t confer upon any right of Indian citizenship and held that mere possession of a Pan Card, A Voter ID card or an Aadhar Card cannot be said to be a proof Indian Citizenship.

 

Judgement Link: Kiran Gupta v. State Election Commission & others

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