Alien-turned-citizen not barred from statutory posts: government

December 19th, 2008 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) The Union government has asserted before the Supreme Court that the Indian constitution, unlike those of other countries, does not differentiate between born Indians and alien-turned-citizens and does not bar the latter from holding any constitutional posts.The government made the assertion in an affidavit filed to the apex court Wednesday in response to a lawsuit that sought answer to a contentious question if an alien-turned-Indian can hold constitutional posts like those of the president and prime minister.

The lawsuit was filed by Rashtriya Mukti Morcha (RMM), a socio-political organisation, which questioned then president K.R. Narayan’s decision to invite Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in 1999 to form the government after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) lost a no-confidence motion in parliament.

“The constitutions of various countries of the world make distinction between naturally-born and other types of citizens, while the Indian constitution does not make any such distinction,” the union law ministry’s deputy legislative counsel R. Sreenivas said in his affidavit filed on behalf of the government.

“This shows a conscious effort on the part of the framers of the constitution not to make a similar distinction within single class of citizen,” added Sreenivas, contending that RMM’s petition is liable to be dismissed.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had on April 16, 2007, issued notice to the union government and the Election Commission seeking their replies to the RMM petition. But the government did not file its reply till July 14 this year, when the apex court slated it for final hearing. The government finally gave its reply Wednesday.

The apex court bench last year sought the government reply to a single legal issue: Whether only born Indian citizens, meeting the criteria of being an Indian citizen under Article 5 of the constitution, are eligible to hold high constitutional offices.

The bench posed to the government the question: “Whether a person, who is not a citizen within the meaning of Article 5 of the constitution, has the right to be elected or appointed to any public office under the constitution?”

Article 5 of the constitution stipulates that for being an Indian citizen, a person has to be domiciled in India on Nov 11, 1949, the day the Indian constitution was commenced.

They or either of their parents should have also been born in Indian territory or at least have been ordinarily residing in the Indian territory for five years before the commencement of the constitution.

Basing its argument on this legal proposition, the government went on to say that if only Indian citizens, meeting the criteria of being a citizen under Article 5 of the constitution, were to hold public offices, then no Indian born after Nov 26, 1949 would be eligible to do so.

“Therefore, after a few years, there would be nobody left to hold any constitutional position in the country,” said the government.

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