NEW DELHI: The Calcutta High Court has ruled that foreigners could apply for Indian citizenship even without a valid passport from the country of their origin, if they could furnish detailed reasons for the "non-furnishing of passports."
Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya said that despite the provision to apply online, a provision has to be made for persons who do not have all the particulars of their passports, which is read as optional, to file the applications manually, which are to be treated as valid applications under Rule 5 of the Citizenship Rules, 2009.
"... alternatively to amend the necessary software so that the online applications can be presented with or without passports -- in the latter case furnishing the detailed reasons as to the non-furnishing of passports," the judge said.
The court said after that receiving such applications, and upon being satisfied about the reasons given by the applicants, in connection with the absence of passports and as to the correctness of the particulars of the applications, the Collector shall forward such applications to the state government.
"Upon a consideration under Rule 12(a) shall, if satisfied about the reasons for the absence of passport, forward the said application to the central government, which will dispose of such application in accordance with law, giving due credence according to its own standards to the reason furnished by the petitioner for not being able to produce his passport," said the court.
The court observed that an applicant has to submit an application on the ground of acquiring citizenship under Section 5(1)(c) of the Act mandatorily in Form III as given in the rules. The language of Rule 5(1) specifies that the application from a person cannot be entertained unless the application is made in Form III.
"A perusal of Form III shows that Clause 9 of the same requires the passport particulars of the applicant to be filled in and the documents to be attached with the application, includes a valid foreign passport", noted the court.
The court also observed the rule "contemplates that an application shall not be entertained unless the application is made in Form III, such provision does not make the availability of a passport a mandatory requirement".
The court granted the liberty to the petitioner to file an application before the authority as contemplated in Rule 11 of the Citizenship Rules 2009, upon furnishing response on the non-availability of the passport.
Petitioner Bismillah Khan had moved the court on the ground that he is being denied the citizenship of India due to the online process which makes it essential that a copy of the passport of the applicant is a mandatory requirement for making an application.
Petitioner's counsel Sharmistha Podder submitted he was a Pakhtoon and due to political turmoil in his native land and subsequent to its merger with Afghanistan and Pakistan he migrated to India as a five-year-old along with his father in 1973.