By Anshdeep Kaur
DELHI, India, 22 September 2016
In a historic judgement, today the Delhi High Court ordered the Ministry of External Affairs to treat as Indians all Tibetans who meet the criteria of being Indian citizens by birth, and to issue them passports. The Court held that the question of ‘nationality’ does not arise in cases where a person is considered a citizen of India as per the Citizenship Act.
The judgement came in response to three separate writs, filed by Phuntsok Wangyal, Lobsang Wangyal, and Tenzin Dhonden. All three Tibetans had been told to apply for, and receive, a citizenship certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs before they could acquire a passport, despite all of them owning other proofs of their Indian citizenship like a Voter identification card.
The writs were combined together and heard by the Delhi High Court today, where it held that even Mr Tenzin Dhonden is to be considered a citizen of India. The Court observed that though Mr Dhonden was born in India after 1987, his Tibetan father was born in India in 1966, making even Mr Tenzin Dhonden eligible for an Indian Passport.
The High Court passed a direction to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to consider the applications of all Tibetans for a passport and not ask them to certify their nationality.
The High Court also quashed a letter written by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Election Commission whereby the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that all Tibetans irrespective of their date of birth could not be presumed to be Indian. The Court set aside the letter on the grounds that it was in violation of the Citizenship Act.
The Ministry of External Affairs has been ordered to furnish passports to the three petitioners within the next four weeks.
Mr Giriraj Subramanium, who argued on behalf of Mr Lobsang Wangyal and Mr Tenzin Dhonden, says, “This Judgement clearly affirms the right of each Tibetan to an Indian Passport, and further ensures that Tibetans can avail of the protection of Indian Laws.”
Indeed, this landmark judgement holds up the word of Constitutional Law in India, and brings relief to many Indians of Foreign Descent who have faced unnecessary delays and disappointments in obtaining official travel documents.