Thursday 30 May 2024

Some more hope for Goan parents in UK

GLOBAL GOENKARS SPEAK

JOYCE DE SOUZA | APRIL 12, 2024, 11:03 PM IST

LONDON

The recent case in the Delhi High Court has created some hope for some parents in the United Kingdom as their Indian passports of their minor children are not being renewed on the basis that one of the parents is not an Indian national but is a foreign national.

This is a recent issue affecting many Indians, Goans in the UK. My husband, Elvis Fernandes and I know of many Goans in Wembley, Greenford, Willesden, Southall, Hounslow, Harrow, Swindon, Reading, etc. who had booked their tickets to go to Goa during Easter holidays but could not travel as their child’s passport was not renewed. Some of them incurred financial losses as they lost money they had paid while booking their tickets to Goa. 

I know of one family who is under stress because they had submitted their original Indian passport to the VFS centre in Hounslow while applying for their son's Indian passport renewal because the staff had asked for the same when they went in for their appointment. Till date, they have not received the original passport or the renewed passport. If the High Commission of India (HCI) did not want to renew the same, there was no point in holding back the minor’s original passport. The mother has written to the HCI and has followed up but till date, the original passport has not been returned.

There are some parents who intended to go to Goa for the Exposition of St Francis Xavier relics in December during the school holidays in the UK but cannot book tickets and even travel for religious purposes as their child's passport has either expired or will expire soon.

PETITION, VERDICT

In the writ petition of Akshar Reddy Vanga and Anr. represented by Subba Reddy Vanga v/s Union of India, Justice Subramaniam passed the order in favour of the two minor children whose parents had approached the court of law because their Indian passports were revoked and passport authorities refused to renew them on grounds that their mum was a US citizen.

The Court observed that both parents of the two minor children were Indian citizens by birth. They moved to the US and their children were born there. The High Court also noted the fact that the father of the two minor children was still an Indian citizen and that he had retained his citizenship till date. The mum in this case had acquired citizenship under Section 9 of the Indian Citizenship Act,1955.

The Delhi High Court underlined that a subordinate legislation cannot override primary legislation. The Court held that the Citizenship Act of 1955 supersedes provisions outlined in the Passport Manual of 2020.The High Court’s verdict in favour of the children clearly stated the children fulfilled criteria under section 4(1)(A) of the Citizenship Act. This section stipulates that a minor holding citizenship of India and of another country at the same time, must renounce one of the citizenship within six months of reaching adulthood to retain Indian Citizenship.

If we interpret the section and the Court’s decision in a simple way, it means that even if a minor child has dual citizenship, the Indian passport cannot be revoked or authorities cannot refuse to renew the Indian passport on those grounds because a minor can on attaining the age of 18 years revoke one of the citizenship. This provision is especially for protection of minors, so that they don’t end up being stateless in case of a dispute like this where one parent is an Indian national and the other parent is a foreign national.

I believe this provision is in accordance to the UN Convention on Children’s Rights where the state is advised that it is not right to have a minor being stateless. In this particular case, the Court’s intervention will allow the children to apply for a renewed Indian passport. 

HOPE IN SIGHT

I was interacting with a Brent Councillor some days before about the issue and he said that even in UK, a child who is stateless for a continuous period of 5 years for certain reasons, can apply for a British citizenship irrespective of which nationality his or her parents have. This is done to protect the child and is in accordance with the UN convention on child rights.

Due to the election code of conduct in India, any prompt resolution or solution is not something that parents can see coming from the Government but this high court judgement dated March 25, 2024 is a little light at the end of the tunnel.

If the judgement is really interpreted well in the legal sense, minors should not be deprived of their original citizenship just because one of their parent had acquired foreign citizenship or is a foreign national. If developed countries like UK safeguard the child’s rights when it comes to statelessness, it’s no harm if India also follows the same as they were doing before in the past.

A sudden change in procedure to stop renewing the Indian minors passport has left many families in a dilemma and mental stress. I really hope that the Indian Government understands this as soon as possible and takes the appropriate steps to allow minors to renew their Indian citizenship till the age of 18 years.

I wonder if any parent or a group of parents who are affected by this issue in the UK will seek the Court’s intervention about this issue by citing this case in favour of the Appellants decided by the Delhi High Court on March 25. 

May be, the Judiciary can uphold the rights of a minor by virtue of humanity and necessity of the modern world where migration to another country is not anti-national nor is acquiring citizenship of another country for better prospects.

[The writer, a practicing lawyer in Goa and a corporate lawyer for international banks, is the Constituency of the Labour Party Women’s Officer in the Labour Party of Brent West Parliamentary Constituency in North West London] 



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