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In a relief to a Pakistani national who has been living in India for over 50 years but did not have a passport, the Bombay High Court today directed the Maharashtra government to help him with his pending application for Indian citizenship. A bench of justices R M Borde and Rajesh Ketkar asked the state government to file an affidavit in two weeks giving details of the procedures that the petitioner, 52-year-old Asif Karadia, has to follow to get his application processed. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, meanwhile, told the court today that it has extended Karadia's long-term visa (LTV) till December to ensure he isn't deported to Pakistan. Karadia had approached the high court in December 2016 when his previous LTV expired and the authorities refused to extend it unless he produced a Pakistani passport. Karadia told the court he did not have a Pakistani passport or any other identity document issued by the Pakistani government because he was born in Karachi but brought to India by his mother when he was only a few days old and has stayed here since. His parents were born in Gujarat before Partition, and his wife and his three children are Indian citizens. He said he has been living in India, working at a local restaurant, paying taxes, and has Indian ID proofs such as an Aadhaar card, a ration card, a PAN card and even a voter ID card, though he has no passport. His citizenship application has been pending with the Union government for over seven years, he said. He approached the HC through his lawyers Ashish Mehta and Sujay Kantawala, seeking that the deportation notice against him be stayed and his LTV be extended till the government decides on his citizenship application. In 2016, another bench of the court had denied him any interim relief, observing that even if a person is entitled to Indian citizenship, he or she could not "at any given time, be authorised to reside in the country without valid papers". The bench had also ordered an inquiry into how the central government has been issuing him long term visa for so many years when Karadia doesn't have even a Pakistani passport. However, in January 2017, a division bench led by Justice S C Dharmadhikari observed that Karadia's case was "unique", and in an interim order, directed the state and the Centre not to take any coercive action against him. Yesterday, the bench led by Justice Borde took note of the submission by Karadia's lawyers that the authorities were making him run from pillar to post for the last several years and not deciding on his citizenship application. Justice Borde had yesterday directed the state to submit a timeline of the documents it had forwarded to the MHA to help process Karadia's application.
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