2 Dec 2023 1:10 PM GMT
The Madras High Court has recently directed the Union and State Governments to treat a Sri Lankan repatriate man and his family as Indian Citizens and to grant them all reliefs as announced by the Government of Tamil Nadu for Sri Lankan repatriates. Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench was hearing the plea of a man, T Ganesan, who came to India 33 years ago, seeking confirmation...
The Madras High Court has recently directed the Union and State Governments to treat a Sri Lankan repatriate man and his family as Indian Citizens and to grant them all reliefs as announced by the Government of Tamil Nadu for Sri Lankan repatriates.
Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench was hearing the plea of a man, T Ganesan, who came to India 33 years ago, seeking confirmation of his Indian Citizenship by the authorities. It was his case, that though he had been registered as an Indian citizen with an Indian passport, his status as a citizen was not being recognised by the Indian authorities.
In allowing the man's plea, the court noted that India had signed three repatriation agreements with Sri Lanka in which India was obliged to repatriate six lakh persons from Sri Lanka and grant them citizenship.
The court further noted that though half a century had elapsed since the numbers were drawn up, India had conferred citizenship to only around 4,61,639 Indian Origin Tamils and had still not fulfilled their treaty obligations.
“Half a century has elapsed since then. India will have to confer citizenship on not less than 1,37,000 Indian Origin Tamils. The figures presently available indicate that there are around 5,130 individual applicants belonging to IOT category seeking Indian citizenship. Even if all of them are granted Indian citizenship, India would still not have fulfilled its treaty obligations. I am not directing the Government of India to confer citizenship on the petitioner. I am only mandating them to acknowledge an existing fact. It is high time the petitioner's status as Indian citizen is recognized. But mere recognition is not sufficient. He is also entitled to the rehabilitatory measures announced by the Government for Sri Lankan repatriates,” the court held.
It further observed that as per Article 51 of the Constitution, the State was obliged to endeavour to foster respect for treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another.
Ganesan had reached India in the year 1990 following hostilities between the Sri Lankan army and LTTE. It was argued that he had submitted the initial application for acquiring Indian citizenship in 1970 when he was 16 years old, but that his passport was issued by the Attache/Assistant High Commission of India in Sri Lanka, only in 1982.
It was submitted that being an Indian Citizen, he sought confirmation of the same from the authorities who continued to treat him as a Sri Lankan refugee, due to alleged discrepancies with his passport.
It was argued that he subsequently approached the High Court which directed authorities to consider his representation for citizenship.
Following this, it was pointed out that an order was issued by the authorities stating that the materials placed by Ganesan were not sufficient to conclude that he was an Indian Citizen and he was further directed to submit conclusive evidence of him acquiring Indian citizenship.
This order of the authorities refusing to acknowledge his citizenship application was challenged in the present proceedings.
It was submitted that though the Government did not question the issuance of his passport, it raised questions on his identity, arguing that they were not sure if the passport was issued to Ganesan himself, due to the attached photo being that of a 'younger person.'
The court observed that such reasons for doubting the passport of Ganesan were unsustainable and that in this day and age, it was easy to find out the identity of a person using a photograph irrespective of the age at which it was taken.
It added that when the genuineness of the passport was unquestionable, the burden of proof in this case was on the authorities and could not be shifted to Ganesan.
“The photograph has been crossed by the Attache/issuing authority. We are in an age when it is so easy to find out the identity of a person from a photograph irrespective of the age when it was taken. Issuance of passport is a sovereign act. When the genuineness of the passport is not in doubt, the exercise of matching the photograph found therein with the claimant has to be undertaken only by the authority concerned. This burden cannot be shifted to the applicant,” the court observed.
Thus, the court opined that it was high time that the government recognised Ganesan as an Indian citizen and granted him all the rehabilitative measures announced by the government allowing him to seamlessly integrate into the mainstream,
Counsel for Petitioner: Mr.Romeo Roy Alfred
Counsel for Respondent: Mr.B.Rajesh Saravanan Central Government Standing Counsel, Mr.K.Balasubramanian, Special Government Pleader, Mr.S.Manuraj, Amicus Curiae
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 377
Case Title: T Ganesan v Government of India and Others
Case NO: WP(MD) No.12782 of 2022