Rahul Gandhi’s Citizenship – The Centre Must Decide

In the absence of any decision to the contrary by the competent authority, the Central Government, a presumption of Indian citizenship operated in the favor of Mr. Gandhi. The Returning Officer had no option but to honor the said presumption.

As noted earlier, Dr. Swamy has already written to the Home Ministry upon the subject. For reasons best known to it, the Central Government has failed to act.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship has been a subject of speculation for some time now.  On September 21, 2017, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, Rajya Sabha MP of BJP, wrote to the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh, enclosing certain documents regarding a company named BACKOPS LIMITED in the United Kingdom. Dr. Swamy contended that Mr. Rahul Gandhi was the Director and Secretary of the Company and that it could be seen from the documents in question that Mr. Gandhi had declared himself to be of British Nationality with a United Kingdom address at 51 Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9EH.

The topic came to the fore yet again when the Returning Officer of Amethi, on April 20, ordered the postponement of scrutiny of nomination papers of Mr. Gandhi amidst objections regarding the latter’s citizenship. The move created ripples in political and news circles. The BJP held a press conference raising questions over Mr. Gandhi’s citizenship status. The party reportedly also filed a complaint with the Election Commission of India. The drama, however, came to a rather uncharacteristically quiet end today, April 22, when the Returning Officer found the nomination papers of Mr. Gandhi in order and put an end to speculations for now.   

The decision of the Returning Officer comes as no surprise.

The reason is a simple one.  The Returning Officer had absolutely no authority to venture into the question of Mr. Gandhi citizenship status. Even if the above-noted documents, which are available in the public domain, are presumed to be genuine and authenticated, they by themselves do not extinguish Mr. Gandhi’s Indian citizenship. Under the law, Mr. Gandhi’s citizenship can only be terminated by a declaration to that effect by the competent authority, the Central Government. Until such time that the Central Government declares Mr. Gandhi to have acquired British citizenship and to have consequentially given up his Indian citizenship, the latter remains an Indian citizen for all practical purposes.

As such, the Returning Officer, based on the aforementioned documents, could not have taken the view that Mr. Gandhi had ceased to be an Indian citizen, and, having so concluded, rejected the nomination papers of Mr. Gandhi.  

The position becomes absolutely clear from a survey of the relevant provisions of law.

The termination of citizenship of an Indian citizen for having acquired citizenship of another country is dealt with by Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act, 1955’ for the sake of brevity).

Section 9 (1) of the Act, 1955, lays down that any citizen of India who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country shall, upon such acquisition, cease to be a citizen of India. Section 9 (2) of the Act, 1955, on the other hand, lays down that if any question arises as to whether, when or how any citizen of India has acquired the citizenship of another country, it shall be determined by such authority, in such manner, and having regard to such rules of evidence, as may be prescribed in this behalf. Rule 30 of the Citizenship Rules, 1956, appoints the Central Government as the authority competent to decide questions agitated under Section 9 (2) of the Act, 1955.

A bare perusal of the above-noted provisions of the law leaves no doubt that the Central Government, and not the Returning Officer, is the authority competent to determine whether, when or how any citizen of India, in this case, Mr. Gandhi, acquired foreign citizenship. Moreover, such determination must be made having regard to rules of evidence, such rules having been set out in Schedule III of the Citizenship Rules, 1956.

The aforesaid view is fortified by the judgment rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Bhagwati Prasad Dixit ‘Ghorewala’ v. Rajeev Gandhi, reported in AIR 1986 SC 1534. In that case, the petitioner had contended that because Mr. Rajeev Gandhi, India’s erstwhile Prime Minister and the late father of Mr. Rahul Gandhi, had married an Italian lady and had acquired properties in his own name as well as in the name of his wife in Italy, Mr. Rajeev Gandhi must be deemed to have acquired Italian citizenship and to have ceased to be an Indian citizen under Section 9 of the Act, 1955.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court went on to hold that ‘Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, is a complete code as regards the termination of Indian citizenship on the acquisition of citizenship of a foreign country’ and that ‘the High Court was in error in construing that it could decide the question whether a person had ceased to be an Indian citizen’. The Hon’ble Apex Court observed that as per ‘Rule 30 of the Citizenship Rules, 1956, the Central Government is appointed as the authority to decide such question’ and that ‘no court or authority has the power to decide the question as to whether, when or how an Indian citizen has acquired the citizenship of another country’.

The law is, therefore, well settled. Mr. Gandhi, at no point of time, faced any danger of having his nomination rejected by the Returning Officer upon the ground that the former’s citizenship was under a cloud. In the absence of any decision to the contrary by the competent authority, the Central Government, a presumption of Indian citizenship operated in the favor of Mr. Gandhi. The Returning Officer had no option but to honor the said presumption. Any other course of action would not have survived judicial scrutiny.

The above-noted chain of events, nonetheless, does not imply that Mr. Gandhi has got a clean chit in so far as his citizenship status is concerned. Far from it. The decision of the Returning Officer should not be perceived as having closed the lid on the controversy once and for all. It is for the Central Government to take a final call in the matter. The truth is that the ball is, and has always been, in the court of the Central Government. As noted earlier, Dr. Swamy has already written to the Home Ministry upon the subject. For reasons best known to it, the Central Government has failed to act. If we are to ever get to the bottom of this matter, the Central Government must act. Schedule III of the Citizenship Rules, 1956, clearly provides that if it appears to the Central Government that a citizen has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country, it may require him to prove, within a fixed period, that he has not voluntarily acquired the citizenship of that country. The road ahead is, therefore, very straightforward. Let us wait and watch if it is taken.  

Prateek Rai

Prateek Rai has a B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee. Presently, practices law at the Allahabad High Court.
Prateek Rai

1 COMMENT

  1. Rahul Gandhi’s Citizenship – The Centre Must Decide.
    Our ancient civilization is being destroyed by the term secularism.Just like a bunch of astrologers looking at a particular horoscope under same astrological cannons “interpret” his/her predictions in such as way that the very purpose of “indicative” science in nature goes into a tailspin thus bringing a bad name to our ancient science called astrology/jyotish sastra, similarly under our Constitution, articles / laws in the country are being conveniently twisted to suit the dynasty for over 70 years now.

    It is probable that Modi government has been under constant fear psychosis that “sympathy wave” may be created by the massive pro-dynasty media in favor of SG,RG to win 2019 elections!! Hence, the dynasty keeps the most controversial issues close to its chest and leaks it feeble to become a storm just before/during elections.

    Second, Dynasty’s battery of lawyers are the “most resourceful” in the country and lucky and gets judgement in their favor even after half past midnight! Dynasty lawyers makes SC/HC to hear the case during holidays too!

    Third, it is pathetic to see half of Modi ji’s ministers lacked quality. Modi ji was depended on imported persons who abused him in the first place and continued with same old UPA1&2 bureaucracy!! Hence, Rahul/Priyanka holding multiple passports/citizenship issue was knowingly swept under the carpet. Moles are many in the government and in BJP.

    Fourth, Raul Vinci is under many cases and on bail too and may leave the country! His eyes and ears are glued to the ground!!

    Fifth,if any agency comes up to Rahul to arrest him, he may refuse to take summons or handcuffed because he is “Raul Vinci not Rahul Gandhi” or vice versa (in a lighter vein!!!!!!!)!

    If BJP comes to power on its own or on allies crutches, it may be difficult to taker decision on the citizenship issue, because our polity is filled up with dynasties in most of the states and now Rahul Priyanka introduced a new twist in our democracy with dual citizenship issue thus overburdening taxpayers, regional satraps may not oblige PM Modi to give a blow to Dynasty on the said issue.

    Hence, Rahul Gandhi’s Citizenship – The Centre Must Decide…we may be asking for the Moon as of now!!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here