Issue passports to Tibetans born in India: HC

In a groundbreaking move for Tibetans, the government of India has decided to issue passports to Tibetans born in India as per the Indian Citizenship Act 1955 following a Delhi High Court ruling.

A memorandum from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has ordered that passport facilities be made available to all Tibetan refugees born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987. The letter, dated 17 March 2017, was sent to all Passport Offices in India, as well as all Indian Missions and Posts abroad. It is expected to benefit thousands of Tibetans living in India in forced exile.

This was in result of a case brought against the Government of India by Lobsang Wangyal, in which the Citizenship Act 1955 was affirmed by the High Court of Delhi on 22 September 2016.

Latest rules also specify that if the police verification report in the cases of such applicants from local police or security agencies of the government is received as “adverse” because the refugee is not an Indian citizen by birth, it will be treated by the authorities as “cleared.”

Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had argued that it considers requests for citizenship by Tibetans residing in India on a case-by-case basis, but the HC ordered it to consider applications of all Tibetans and not ask them to certify their nationality. Till then the MHA was issuing identity certificate/ residential permit instead of passports to the Tibetan Refugees.

MHA was requested by the MEA to let them know if they intended to file an appeal against the High Court’s ruling. To which, the MHA cleared that they did not intend to file an appeal against the HC judgment.

With MEA issuing new rules, HC declared five petitioners before it to be Indian citizens and entitled to a passport, asking the government to issue travel documents to them in four weeks. The petitioners had gone to court arguing they were wrongly denied passports despite having other proofs of citizenship including voter ID cards.

In view of the above, the MEA decided that all passport-issuing authorities in India and abroad, subject to the usual checks and other passport formalities, “shall process all the pending applications of Tibetan refugee applicants born in India between 26/01/1950 to

01/07/1987, for the issue of passports treating them as the Indian citizens by birth under Section 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”

Lobsang’s case was filed in Delhi High Court in May 2016 by his lawyers Giriraj Subramanium and Simarpal Singh Sawhney. The case was filed after his passport application was rejected, and his attempts failed to get a citizenship certificate from MHA.

So far they have been traveling with an “Identity Certificate” which many say is troublesome to use, due to at least a year of the wait to get one, and other permits associated with it. With the change in the rules, Tibetans could now apply for passport following the usual rules.

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