New Delhi, October 13: The Patna High Court Monday observed that a former Nepali citizen couldn’t have become an Indian citizen just because she has a voter ID or married an Indian citizen.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S. Kumar asserted that “mere registration of a person’s name in the voter list, ipso facto, does not confer citizenship”. It explained that the enrolment in a voter list is based on the applicant filing a declaration with the authorities, stating that they are a citizen of India, The Print reported.

The court was hearing a petition filed by one Kiran Gupta, who was born in Nepal, but has permanently resided in India since 2003 after marrying an Indian citizen. After her marriage, she got her name on the voters’ list prepared in 2008 for the Bihar Assembly elections.

Gupta, who also had an account with a bank in India, a PAN card and an Aadhaar card, pursued higher education in India and even purchased immovable property in 2017. Gupta also relinquished her Nepali citizenship in February 2016. She was then elected as a mukhiya of a Gram Panchayat in Bihar in 2018. 

The State Election Commission, however, set aside her election under the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act 2006, noting that she is not an Indian citizen.

The bench hearing the case noted, “The legal status of the applicant’s citizenship precedes her enrolment on the electoral rolls. If such a declaration of citizenship is found to be false, the applicant is liable for punishment.” It also referred to precedents ruling that a voter ID is not conclusive evidence of citizenship.

The court, however, did not go into the question whether the petitioner misrepresented facts in her application for a voter card or made a “bona fide mistake as she presumed the electoral roll process was sufficient as registration for Indian citizenship”.

The court took note of the provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955, noting that Section 5 deals with citizenship by registration. This provision allows the Central government to register someone as a citizen. It says that any person who is married to a citizen of India and has resided in India for the past seven years can make an application for citizenship by registration.

But, it then observed, “She is married to a citizen of India and is ordinarily residing in India for the last seven years. But then, significantly and undisputedly, she never sought citizenship by way of registration, more so, after voluntarily relinquishing her citizenship of Nepal in February 2016.”

“An oath of allegiance is necessarily required to be taken by the appellant. Hence, by her actions and conduct, she precluded herself from being considered as a citizen under the Citizenship Act,” the bench added.

It also rejected Gupta’s other documents (PAN, Aadhaar, property documents and her relinquishment of her Nepali citizenship) that Gupta tried to rely on to prove her citizenship. The court, therefore, rejected her petition and upheld the state election commission’s order.

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