Progeny of Tibetans, born in India on/after 26.01.1950 & before 01.07.1987, are Indian citizens; entitled to benefits & privileges available to Indian citizens

Meghalaya High Court: While considering three petitions addressing the issue wherein the petitioners (they being children of Tibetan parents and born in India on or after 26.01.1950 and before 01.07.1987) were denied the status as citizens of India under the Citizenship Act, 1955, the Division Bench of Dinesh Maheshwari, C.J., and Ved Prakash Vaish, J., held that, on interpreting an unambiguous provision such as Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, the petitioners are Indian citizens in every respect and thus are entitled to all benefits and privileges available to the Indian citizens.

The three petitions which were addressed jointly by the Court, stated that the petitioners are citizens of India by virtue of Section 3 (1) (a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, but they were denied the status of citizens and the rights attached therewith by the Union of India and the State of Meghalaya without any justification and reason. It was further contended that they were being compelled by the authorities to carry registration certificate as refugees. The respondents however contended that if the petitioners are having a claim of citizenship, then they need to apply to the authorities concerned under Section 3 read with Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the requisite declaration in their favour could be made only after due enquiry. The respondents claimed that the petitioners have furnished false information related to their birth and that they obtained the registration in the Electoral Rolls by suppressing the fact that they were registered Tibetan refugees and were not holding the citizenship certificate.

Perusing the facts of the case and the clarity of Section 3 (1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, the Court outright observed that the respondents were unjustified in denying the rights to the petitioners as citizens of India though such rights flow directly and unfailingly by the operation of the plain provisions of law. Moreover each of the petitioners was born within the cutoff year as provided by the law. Referring to the decisions of the Delhi High Court and Karnataka High Court in Namgyal Dolkar v. Government of India, 2010 SCC OnLine Del 4548 and Tenzin Choephag Ling Rinpoche v. Union of India, 2013 SCC OnLine Kar 5932 respectively, the Court stated that the plain reading of unambiguous provisions of law, as contained in Section 3 of the 1955 Act, leaves nothing to doubt and, “any decision by any Ministry cannot override the plain provisions of law nor any correspondence or any communication could do so.” [Tenzing Choden Sherpa v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Megh 35, decided on 15.02.2017]

 

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