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Final hearing in September on foreign origin issue

Legal Correspondent

Petition challenged invitation to Sonia Gandhi to form government in 1999

High Court dismissed the petition in 2006

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday posted for final hearing to September a petition raising an important question whether a citizen of India, not by birth but by citizenship acquired by naturalisation, could hold constitutional posts/public offices.

A Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam, directed that the matter be listed for final hearing after eight weeks. It asked Additional Solicitor-General P.P. Malhotra, appearing for the Centre, to file its response to the petition filed by Rashtriya Mukti Morcha pleading for examination of this issue. Senior counsel P.N. Lekhi, appearing for the Morcha, submitted that since it was an important issue, the court should decide it expeditiously.

In a writ petition before the Delhi High Court, the Morcha challenged the invitation extended by the then President on April 20, 1999 to Congress president Sonia Gandhi to explore the possibility of forming a government after the Vajpayee-led government was voted out on the floor of the Lok Sabha on April 17, 1999. The High Court, in November 2006, dismissed the petition. The special leave petition is directed against this judgment.

The Morcha said the then President took a “strange” decision to invite Ms. Gandhi though she was not even an MP and because of Mr. Mulayam Singh’s reluctance to support her, she could not form a government. It said that the position in over 200 countries was that a person who was not a citizen by birth could not hold high constitutional posts or public offices or head any political party.

It said: “The impugned judgment, if given effect to, will give constitutional protection to foreigners who are not citizens by birth to occupy high posts. The political threat of a person of foreign origin holding high constitutional post is still looming large and the threat has not vanished.”

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