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Indian citizens in UK may lose voting rights

Indians may be deprived of their rights to full political participation, if a wide-ranging plan to overhaul British citizenship rights are introduced, reportsVijay Dutt.
Hindustan Times | By Vijay Dutt, London
UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2008 04:09 AM IST

Thousands of Indians in UK may be deprived of their rights to full political participation, if a wide-ranging plans to overhaul British citizenship rights and responsibilities are introduced.

A white paper, Citizenship: Our Common Bond, submitted by the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, on streamlining eligibility and rights of those acquiring citizenship has also stipulated, amongst other recommendations, that the right of voting, so far automatic for any Commonwealth citizen who has stayed more than six months in Britain, should not be accorded.

The proposal affecting Commonwealth citizens is: Providing that only citizens should have the fullest rights to political participation. The right to vote of non-citizens should be phased out while retaining the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and Irish citizens who have Irish citizenship by connection to Northern Ireland.

As Lord Goldsmith was commissioned by Gordon Brown to recommend how to streamline line citizenship process, the proposals will be taken up in Parliament this November.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian nationals who are already here, on hearing the proposal, were alarmed that their right so far to fully participate in various political processes, from standing for the House of Commons, for becoming member of councils or even voting in parliamentary elections, council polls and other political activities, would be axed. So far all Commonwealth citizens, including from India, become eligible to vote after staying here for over six months.

The Commonwealth citizens were accorded full political rights, including the right to stand in British elections, in recognition of the significance Britain attaches to the idea of Commonwealth and its imperial links with its members.

It has been a unique arrangement in that even EU nationals, living in Britain, do not have full voting rights. Nor do British nationals in most Commonwealth countries, including India, enjoy reciprocal rights.

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