Karnataka High Court protects 15-year-old boy from becoming ‘stateless’ child

The court directed the passport authorities to re-issue passport to 15-year-old boy till he attains majority, as he would have otherwise been rendered “Stateless”

March 24, 2023 07:51 pm | Updated March 25, 2023 10:46 am IST - Bengaluru

Image used for representative purpose only. File

Image used for representative purpose only. File

The High Court of Karnataka came to the rescue of a 15-year-old boy and protected him from becoming a “Stateless” child due to an unprecedented situation for which no solution exists in the existing legal framework.

The court directed the passport authorities to re-issue passport to Arya Selvakumar Priya till he attains majority, as he would have otherwise been rendered “Stateless” as his mother was “reckless” in not knowing the consequences of renouncing her Indian citizenship, and his father was untraceable.

Perhaps, the lawmakers would not have envisaged a situation of this kind, that is brought before the court, for them to think of a solution in the form of rules, guidelines, or procedures stipulated under the Citizenship Act or the Passports Act, the court noted.

UN mandate

While noticing the absence of legal provision for issuing passport to the petitioner-boy under the existing Indian laws, Justice M. Nagaprasanna said it is the duty of the courts to protect human rights of the boy as the United Nation’s conventions on rights of child and the Stateless, to which India is a signatory, mandates that “no child should be left Stateless.” The court passed the order on a petition filed by the boy and his mother.

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“Stateless” child is an individual who does not hold the citizenship of any country. The Citizenship Act states that a minor child would cease to be an Indian citizen if one of the parents renounce Indian citizenship. The law allows such minors to apply for Indian citizenship only on attaining 18 years of age.

Background of case

The boy was born in India in 2008 and his parents were Indian citizens then. His father relocated to Canada in 2011, and he joined the father along with his mother later. However, the father came back to India with the boy in 2012 and left the boy with his maternal grandparents. The father has been untraceable since. The grandparents had secured a minor’s Indian passport to the boy and the passport was valid till March 2020.

However, the boy’s mother continued her stay in Canada to pursue her higher studies. She, on completion of higher studies, acquired Canadian citizenship and renounced Indian citizenship in 2015 and got citizenship surrender certificate. Later, she relocated to United Kingdom due to avocation. In 2018, she got an order from a family court in Bengaluru annulling her marriage as her husband remained untraceable.

She then applied for renewal of passport of her son to enable her to take him to the U.K. However, the passport authorities declined to renew passport as the boy, as per the law, had lost Indian citizenship as mother had renounced her Indian citizenship. However, the passport appellate authority, on humanitarian grounds, had in March 2022, issued a temporary passport to the boy for one year, valid till March 2023, to enable the boy to join his mother in the U.K.

The court noted that the boy had lost Indian citizenship as mother renounced her Indian citizenship and he cannot become citizen of any country as of now and hence, will become “Stateless” till he attains age of 18.

The court cannot shut its doors to the cry of a child, observed Justice Nagaprasanna while giving liberty to the boy to restore his Indian citizenship once he turns 18.

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