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Uncertainty over dual citizenship
Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi | May 21, 2005 01:51 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement during the 3rd Bharatiya Pravasi Diwas in January on granting dual citizenship to Indians abroad hangs in balance.
Officials in New Delhi are not sure if the provision of dual citizenship to all Indians who migrated after India became a republic on January 26, 1950, will become a reality.
However, the process to grant dual citizenship to Indians in 16 select countries -- including the US -- that stopped in February will restart in June, a senior official in the Ministry of Overseas Indians Affairs told rediff.com.
The official said: "We are not sure about dual citizenship in all countries (if compatible with domestic laws of the concerned country). But the process for 16 countries will start next month."
The 16 countries are Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, New Zealand, Cyprus, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Greece, Portugal, the UK and the US. An estimated 10 to 25 per cent of the people of Indian origin can apply for overseas citizenship.
Dual citizenship means one can have Indian citizenship as well as the citizenship of the country where he or she is living. Apart from other facilities, a person holding dual citizenship does not need a visa to visit India. However, he or she will not have voting rights and cannot hold Constitutional positions.
In May 2003, the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government had amended the Citizenship Act, 1955, to provide dual citizenship to Indians in these 16 countries.
Going a step ahead, Dr Singh had announced in January that all Indians living abroad will get dual citizenship provided their home countries allowed them to do so.
Meanwhile, the process to grant dual citizenship in 16 countries was stopped in February.
Officials in New Delhi said then that the scheme was not abandoned but put on hold. They said the ministries of Home and Law were revising the format and coming up with new provisions.
An Overseas Indians Affairs ministry official said: "The home ministry is now ready with the new format. We hope to resume the process next month."
But the dual citizenship for all countries is in limbo.
After the prime minister's announcement, the home ministry was planning to introduce a bill to amend the Citizenship Act during the Budget session of Parliament between February and May. The new provision cannot be applied unless the Act is amended by Parliament. But the government failed to introduce the bill.
A ministry official said: "We hope to table the bill in the monsoon session."
But he was not sure about its smooth passage. "There is lot of uncertainty. It depends on how strongly the government backs it. We are expecting that if the Bill is tabled in Parliament in the next session, it may be referred to a committee for further study. This will further delay the process. So as of now, we are not in a position to say how long it will take to become a reality."