Bombay High Court raps Belgian citizen who travelled on Indian passport

Bombay High Court raps Belgian citizen who travelled on Indian passport

Vikram Shah defended not surrendering the Indian passport saying “hundreds of thousands” of people do this and later said that this was “an innocent mistake

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Thursday, March 16, 2023, 07:57 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | Wikimedia Commons

The Bombay high court has refused to grant urgent relief to a man who took Belgian citizenship, but did not surrender his Indian citizenship and travelled on his Indian passport. 

An “innocent” mistake

Vikram Shah defended not surrendering the Indian passport saying “hundreds of thousands” of people do this and later said that this was “an innocent mistake”. 

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale were hearing a petition filed by Shah challenging ban on his entry in India and impounding of his Indian passport. 

The HC, on March 14, asked advocate Rui Rodrigues, appearing for the Union of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs, to respond to the plea within eight weeks. 

Refusing to grant urgent relief, the court said that denying him entry and impounding his passport “cannot, prima facie, be said to be arbitrary”. 

In its order, the Hc noted that Shah admitted to taking Belgian citizenship and yet not surrendering or renouncing Indian citizenship. 

Destinations used for travel on Indian passport immaterial, noted court

During the hearing before the court on March 14, he also admitted that after acquiring Belgian citizenship he travelled on his Indian passport. “The destinations he used for travel on the Indian passport are immaterial,” noted the judges. 

Displeased with his justification, the HC said: “First, we were told that “hundreds of thousands” of people do this. Then we were told that this was “an innocent mistake”. Neither of these arguments are even remotely persuasive for the purposes of interim relief.” 

“If, having obtained Belgian citizenship, he still travelled on his Indian passport anywhere, then that had to be a deliberate and conscious act and cannot possibly be a ‘mistake’ or ‘inadvertence’. This is a clear violation of the law,” added the court. 

He then urged the court that his “renunciation” (of Indian citizene ship)  be forthwith noted and that he be issued either a visa to travel to India or an Overseas Citizenship of India (“OCI”) Card.

Since Shah’s advocate Mohit Bhardwaj contended  there are questions of law involving the Citizenship Act, 1955 the Citizenship Rules, 2009 and the Constitution, the HC has admitted the petition. 

However, the court clarified that Shah will have to primary facie satisfy the court that after having acquired foreign citizenship, he can still invoke any protection under the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 or the Rules made thereunder. 

The judges also remarked that there was no violation of his rights under the Constitution of India, Since the same were available to only Indian citizens.

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