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The rights conferred under an Act cannot be taken away by a mere inter-ministerial decision, the Delhi High Court has observed while quashing the minutes of a March 2010 meeting of the erstwhile UPA government regarding citizenship to children born to Tibetan refugees in India.
It said the minutes of inter-ministerial meeting of March 30, 2010 and the August 2011 communication issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Election Commission of India (ECI) on the issue were "contrary" to the Citizenship Act.
The MHA, in a letter to the ECI, had conveyed the minutes of the inter-ministerial meeting which said, "the children born to Tibetan refugee in India will not be treated as Indian citizen automatically based on their birth in India before July 1, 1987 under section 3(1)(a) of Citizenship Act, 1955".
The minutes had also said that all such persons will have to submit an application individually under the provisions of the Act to the MHA, after which the nationality status of all such children would be determined by the ministry as per the prescribed procedure.
In his order, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said, "Section 3 of the Act very categorically lays down the conditions under which a person acquires citizenship by birth. By a mere correspondence or an inter-ministerial meeting, the statutory provisions cannot be defeated".
"No decision taken in an inter-ministerial meeting can over-ride a statutory provision. The petitioner has been given rights under the Act, those rights cannot be taken away by a mere inter-ministerial decision," the court said.
"The communication dated August 26, 2011 and the minutes of meeting dated March 30, 2010, being contrary to the Act, are quashed," it said.
The verdict came on a petition by Tenzin Tselha, a girl child born to Tibetan parents in May 1987, who claimed Indian citizenship and that she cannot be denied an Indian passport.
The court allowed her plea and held that she is an Indian citizen and is entitled to all the benefits and privileges as available to the Indian citizens.
"The respondents (Centre) cannot require the petitioner to make any application under section 9 of the Act. Petitioner cannot be denied Indian passport by the respondents on that ground," the court said, asking the Centre to issue an Indian passport to her in accordance with the rules.
During the hearing, the Centre's counsel had relied on the MHA's August 26, 2011 letter issued to the ECI in which minutes of inter-ministerial meeting were conveyed.
The counsel said that as per the minutes, all children born to Tibetan refugees here would not be treated as Indian citizens "automatically" based on their birth before July 1, 1987 and they have to submit applications individually under section 9(2) of the Citizenship Act.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)