‘Can consider 7.5-month-old foetus a minor child’: Madras High Court

According to Section 8(2) of the Citizenship Act (CA), when a person ceases to be a citizen of India, every minor child of that person shall thereupon cease to be its citizen.
Madras High Court (File photo)
Madras High Court (File photo)

CHENNAI: Resolving a complex matter involving the consideration of a foetus as a minor child in the resumption of its Indian citizenship, the Madras High Court has ruled that the child is entitled to get back the citizenship even though its parents renounced the same when it was in the womb.

According to Section 8(2) of the Citizenship Act (CA), when a person ceases to be a citizen of India, every minor child of that person shall thereupon cease to be its citizen. The child, however, may resume its citizenship within a year of attaining the age of 18.

The case pertains to that of Pranav Srinivasan, a 22-year-old, who sought resumption of his citizenship though his parents had obtained Singapore citizenship on December 19, 1998, when he was a foetus aged seven-and-a-half months. Later, Pranav, too, obtained Singapore citizenship by virtue of his birthplace.

However, after attaining the age of majority on March 1, 2017, Pranav made a declaration before the Indian Consulate in Singapore seeking resumption of his Indian citizenship on May 5, 2017.The application was rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs on April 30, 2019 and Pranav was asked to apply for citizenship under Section 5 (1) (f)/(g) of the CA, if he so desires.

Justice Anita Sumanth of the Madras High Court, in a recent order, quashed the order of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, and ordered: “I have devoted anxious study in setting out the discussion as aforesaid and can arrive at no other conclusion except to state that a foetus or embryo, particularly one who was 7 ½ months on the critical date, that is 19.12.1998, certainly has acquired the status of a child...”

“...With this status, he acquires citizenship of his parents, i.e, Indian citizenship and one that they renounced on the aforesaid date. Thus the protection/entitlement available under Section 8(2) for resumption of citizenship cannot be denied to him.”

Referring to the issue of considering a foetus as a minor child, the judge quoted judgments of Indian and overseas courts and a UN Convention to say the distinction between pre-birth and post-birth loses all significance and a foetus en ventre sa mere (in its mother’s womb), must also be considered a child, particularly when the provisions of Section 8(2) indicate as much, and specifically so. The petitioner is entitled to resumption of his citizenship and shall be issued a document of citizenship within four weeks from the date of issue of the order, Justice Anita Sumanth directed.

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