Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka were primary victims of the civil war in the island country and the Union government may consider applying the principles of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to the group, the Madras high court has observed.
The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014. It was passed by Parliament on December 11, 2019, and the Act was notified within 24 hours on December 12.
Justice G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench was hearing a petition of a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, born to a Sri Lankan couple in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy and seeking Indian citizenship, when he made the observations.
If the petitioner isn’t granted Indian citizenship, she may be rendered stateless, the bench said. “That is the situation which has to be avoided,” the judge said in his order on October 11.
In her petition on April 25 this year, Abirami pointed out that her parents are Sri Lankan residents who fled to India during the civil war from 1983 to 2009. She was born on December 14, 1993 at Shyamala Nursing Home in Trichy and also did her schooling in the city. She said she was also issued an Aadhaar card.
Taking note of the petitioner’s submissions, the court said: “In the case in hand, though the petitioner is a descendant of migrant parents, she was born in India. She has never been a Sri Lankan citizen and therefore, the question of renouncing the same does not arise.”’
“Parliament has recently amended the Citizenship Act. The persecuted minorities from immediate neighborhoods such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh now have an opportunity of getting Indian Citizenship. Though Sri Lanka does not fall within the said amendment, the very same principle is equally applicable,” he added.
One can take judicial notice of the fact that the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka were the primary victims of the racial strife, justice Swaminathan said. “Though the Central Government has to take a call in the matter, there cannot be any impediment for considering the writ petitioner’s request,” he added.
The court also observed that the respondents in the case – the state government’s department of public (foreigners-1) and Trichy district collector – should not have refused to go ahead with the application for eventual consideration by the Centre.
“No exception can be taken to the writ petitioner’s request,” the judge said.
The court directed the Trichy district collector to forward the petition to the state government department who will in turn forward it to the ministry of home affairs. It also directed the Centre to decide on the matter within 16 weeks.
Thirty-six-year-old K Nalini became the first person born to Lankan refugees to receive an Indian passport recently after justice Swaminathan in August directed the Trichy regional passport office to issue the same.
The court noted there were no doubts over the nationality under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1995 which said that any person born in India between January 26, 1950 and July 1, 1987 is a “citizen by birth”.