The door is now ajar for go-getters — be it Indians or foreigners. And the NDA is smarting. The Delhi High Court has dismissed a PIL seeking to debar persons of foreign origin from holding any Constitutional post and de-recognise any political party with a foreign-born person at the helm.
“There is no force in the argument… that a person of foreign origin is not entitled to hold public office and the political party of which one is a member or an office-bearer is liable to be de-registered,” ruled a bench of acting Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kailash Gambhir, dismissing the petition filed by Rashtriya Mukti Morcha in 1999.
Though the petitioner’s plea for Sonia Gandhi’s impleadment and the Congress in the case was dismissed by the court earlier, the PIL basically targeted both.
A Bench headed by the then Chief Justice B.C. Patel last year had dismissed a petition filed by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy challenging the citizenship granted to Sonia Gandhi in 1983 on the ground that there was a 20-year delay. The NDA has been campaigning against persons of foreign origin holding Constitutional posts to corner the Congress.
The petitioner contended that a citizen of foreign origin could not be elected or appointed to any public office under the Constitution, including to the Union or state council of ministers.
Justice Jain, who has since been appointed Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, said, “If one has to follow the liberal and humane concept of ancient Indian philosophy, then what our scriptures have taught us is Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam, i.e., the whole planet is a family. When this is the ethos of this nation and our people, which has such benevolent concept, then any narrow parochial meaning de hors the provisions of law would amount to holding what is not even in the philosophy of this soil,” the court said.
Citing the example of the United States where no foreign-born citizen is allowed to hold the post of President, the petitioner contended that foreign-born citizens could only enjoy civil rights and not political rights as per Indian laws.
The government, however, had refused the arguments and said political rights were guaranteed to all citizens in the preamble of the Constitution itself. The court said “…if the founding fathers of the Constitution have not taken into consideration the concept of a natural born person to accord citizenship, then by no purposeful interpretation this court will hold that a foreign born person is entitled (only) to civil rights and no other rights.
“When the statute does not put limitation on the exercise of a power of a citizen, this court will have no jurisdiction to hold so to interpret in a manner to impose restriction on a foreign-born person not to exercise those rights which are otherwise available to him under the statute or the provision of the Constitution,” the court said.