Foreigners can apply for Indian citizenship without a valid passport if they can furnish proper reasons for not possessing one, the Calcutta High Court has ruled.
The court noted that Clause 9 of Form III of the citizenship application requires the passport particulars of the applicant to be filled in and the documents to be attached with the application includes a valid foreign passport.
Passing the order, the court observed that although the rule "contemplates that an application shall not be entertained unless the application is made in Form III, such provision does not make the availability of a passport a mandatory requirement".
"Form given with the Rules or the Rules themselves cannot override the provision of the statute itself, under which the said Rules are framed, which does not stipulate such a mandate on the applicants for citizenship under Section 5(1)(c) of the 1955 Act mandatorily to carry a passport," the order said further.
The court said that under such circumstances, it cannot be held that the provision of producing a passport and its particulars are mandatory in nature and there has to be a relaxation in such requirement in case the petitioner is able to satisfy the appropriate authorities the reasons for non-availability of such passport.
The court further said that unless such liberty is given to applicants, genuine persons who have been residing in India for a long time and married a resident of India would also be unable to apply for Indian Citizenship, despite having contributed to the economy and diverse culture of this country.
The high court said that this would be "contradictory to the spirit of Article 14 of the Constitution of India".
The requirement of having a passport has to be read as optional and the authorities are deemed to have the power to relax such requirement, Justice Bhattacharyya said in the order passed earlier this week.