The dual citizenship issue has become the major source of politics in Goa. The ruling government and opposition, both are busy in cashing in on the existing opportunities. The Ministry of Home Affairs on 22nd November 2016 had ordered the inquiry into the issue of acquisition of citizenship of another country and make recommendations to the central government. But despite ninety days have been passed the process hasn’t been initiated as yet. The above order was made in the context Goa where several thousand citizens either possess the Portuguese Passport or at least have their births registered at Lisbon. On the one side, the MHA has empowered the District collectors to initiate an inquiry into this matter while on the other side the Congress MP for Rajya Sabha has rubbished the media reports saying that collectors are not authorized to look into the issue or to decide about the dual citizenship of Goans.
Based on the information available from the reliable sources, the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) had ordered an inquiry into the dual nationality issue which is haunting the state of Goa for a real long time. Dual nationality is an issue of controversy which is prevailing in the state of Goa from the time of its independence from Portuguese rule. Before leaving the state of Goa in the hands of the Indian government, the Portuguese left its final mark by conferring the dual nationality on the people of Goa who were born prior to 1961, their children and grandchildren.
More than three months have been passed for the order of MHA but still the applications for the objections have not been invited from the people of Goa. The sources have informed that the modalities are still being worked out and according to the sources, the process will begin only after the new government takes over in the state. “The district collectors are waiting for the new government to be formed to celebrate the modalities and begin the process,” said the sources.
According to the MHA, the order empowers the district collectors of North and South Goa to invite the applications and objections after the proper publicity. South Goa collector Swapnil Naik said, “I haven’t taken any action as yet on the order as I received it during election preparation. I shall now take action as required”. “The inquiry shall be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, keeping in mind provisions contained in the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship Rules 2009,” the order states. Following the inquiry, the district collectors will “make recommendations to the central government giving details of each case”.
The sources have also revealed that the order which was passed by the MHA will remain in force for two years from the date of publication. Meanwhile, the Commissioner NRI Affairs Goa and senior BJP leader Wilfred Mesquita called the order a “complete eye wash”. According to Mr. Mesquita, the central government is initiating the futile efforts. ”The entire process carried out by the central government to sort out the issue has turned out to be an exercise in futility. All meetings between Centre and state it seems were a big waste of time. Since the order also calls for objections, it will lead to more litigation,” Mesquita said.
Mr. Mesquita feels that the government should empower the district collectors of Goa to decide the cases based on the affidavits. “Ideally district collectors should have been given powers to decide cases based on affidavits sworn, with a penalty for those who swear false affidavits”, averred Mr. Mesquita. According to him, the Citizens can just swear in on affidavits stating that they are Indian citizens and that they got their births registered in Portugal without proper knowledge of facts, provided they have only registered their births in Portugal and have not gone beyond that process. For two years, chronic litigants will not be able to file cases in courts, he added.
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha MP from Goa Mr. Shantaram Naik rubbished the media reports of collectors of Goa have been empowered to look into the issue of dual citizenship of Indian citizens residing in the state, saying that the report is not factually correct as the notification was issued in order to protect the voting rights of Goans. In a statement issued in the media here, Mr. Naik said since a number of Goans had registered their births in Portugal, it was argued by some that they ceased to be Indian citizens, which was not the correct position of law.
According to Mr. Naik, the issue of dual citizenship is altogether a different matter and the Union Government, according to him is not interested in settling it. However, the Congress in Goa had decided to pursue the matter with the government, which was an independent matter, not covered by present notification, he said. The senior Congress leader said the limited object of the notification dated November 22, 2016, was to ensure that the names of those who had merely registered their births in Portugal should not lose their voting rights in Goa.
Mr. Naik further stated that, he had taken up this issue with the Home Ministry vigorously and that the ministry had even introduced a bill to amend The Citizenship Act 1955. According to Mr. Naik, instead of issuing the notification, it would have been ideal if the central government had accepted his amendment, introduced in the Rajya Sabha, which he had proposed to section 9 of Citizenship Act, 1955. Mr. Naik said that, he had proposed to add a provision after sub-section (1), which says that no citizen of India shall be deemed to have lost his citizenship merely on grounds of his or her availing the facility conferred by the order enacted by the Portuguese Government by registering their births in Portugal, to the Indian citizens residing in the territory of erstwhile Union Territory of Goa, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, then ruled by the Government of Portugal, unless such Indian citizens voluntarily apply for the citizenship of that country with specific intention of renouncing the citizenship of India, he informed.
”The procedure presently adopted by the central government is cumbersome and would create tremendous hardships as, by this procedure, every citizen who has registered his or her birth in Portugal purely with a view to get a better access to education in foreign universities, will have to appear now, before the collector to prove that he or she is the citizen of India with proof of documents which have not been specified yet in the notification,” said Mr. Naik adding that, ‘Object of the notification is to only know whether an Indian citizen residing in Goa has voluntarily acquired citizenship of another country. It is only those Indian citizens, residing in Goa, who have obtained Portuguese passports will cease to be Indian citizens and therefore will have no voting right but others will enjoy their full voting right.”