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Third Tibetan moves High Court for Indian passport

(TibetanReview.net, Apr30, 2014) – With the authorities in India still refusing to issue passports to Tibetans born in the country between Jan 26, 1950 and Jul 1, 1987 and their children as citizens of the country despite two high court rulings in their favour, a contempt of court petition has been filed before the High court of Delhi at New Delhi in Feb 2013, reported dailymail.co.uk Apr 28. The report said the court was likely to take up the case in Oct 2014.

India’s citizen law, passed in 1955, recognized all persons born in the country after Jan 26, 1950 as citizens. The law was later amended with the result that those born in the country from Jul 1, 1987 could no longer claim citizenship by birth. However, the government of India requires all Tibetans born in the country, irrespective of their date of birth, to register themselves as foreigners once they reach the age of 16. The registration gives them a temporary but renewable permit to remain in the country. For overseas travels they are issued an Identity Certificate instead of a passport.

The refusal to recognize the Indian citizenship of Tibetans born in the country before Jul 1, 1987 was challenged in two petitions filed before the Delhi High Court and the Karnataka High Court. In both the cases the authorities were ordered, in Dec 2010 and Aug 2013, respectively, to issue passports to the Tibetan petitioners in recognition of their rights as citizens of the country.

The Nursing Council of India, in 2013, and India’s Election Commission this year have both sought to implement the high court rulings to enables born Tibetan citizens of India and their children to register as nurses and to take part in voting.

In the present case, 35-year-old Mr Phuntsok Topden, who was born in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, in Jul 1979, had applied for a passport. But the passport authorities rejected his application. Instead, they provided him with a Ministry of Home Affairs circular which said he will have to submit a separate, individual application after which his nationality would be “determined” by the ministry, according to the report.

The petitioner then went to court, with his legal counsel, Advocate SN Pandey, contending that the guidelines issued by the ministry “cannot override the provisions of the Citizenship Act”. He also submitted a copy of the 2010 Delhi High Court judgment.

In Sep 2011, the court directed the authorities to decide on Topden’s fresh application for a passport, submitted in Apr 2011, within three weeks, failing which the RPO (Regional Passport Officer) was directed to be present in person on the next date of hearing. However, while the authorities did consider his application this time, they rejected it again. Several appeals to the passport authorities followed, but to no avail.

In Feb 2013, Topden filed a contempt of court petition, with the Delhi High Court expected to take it up in October this year, the report added.

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