KARNATAKA

Portuguese citizens cannot contest polls: Faleiro

As per the Portuguese Nationality Law only Portuguese citizens can have their birth registered at the Central Registry of Births in Lisbon. As such, this registration is conclusive evidence that the person is a Portuguese citizen, asserted former External Affairs Minister and Senior Congress leader Eduardo Faleiro here on Tuesday.

Mr. Faleiro was responding to the on-going controversy over the Portuguese citizenship with which two MLAs, one of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and one from the supporting regional outfit of Goa Vikas Party (GVP) are presently grappling.

Addressing a press conference at the Congress house on Tuesday, Mr. Faleiro said Portuguese citizen or a citizen of any other country of the EU (European Union) as well as of EFTA (European Free Trade Association), which consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, can live and work indefinitely in other EU countries as well as in the four EFTA countries.

He recalled that in 1975, Portugal re-established diplomatic relations with India and recognised Indian sovereignty over Goa with retrospective effect from December 19, 1961. Under Section 9 (2) of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, once a Goan or any other Indian registers his birth in the Central Registry in Lisbon, he ceases to be a citizen of India.

A person of Goan or other Indian origin holding citizenship of a foreign country, other than Pakistan and Bangladesh, may apply for the OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card, provided their home country allowed dual citizenship in some form or the other, said Mr. Faleiro, who was for many years NRI Affairs commissioner of Goa.

The OCI cardholder is entitled to a lifelong stay in India and parity with NRIs in the financial, economic, and educational fields except acquisition of agriculture land but cannot vote, run for office, join the Army or take up government employment. These restrictions may be modified by a special order of the Central government under Section 7B (1) of the Citizenship Act of 1955.

He also recalled that in 1993, during the Narasimha Rao government at the Centre, when Mr. Faleiro was the Minister for External Affairs, they received a request from the government of Portugal to open a Consulate in Goa. At that time, foreign consulates were permitted only in metropolitan cities. The only reason alleged by the Portuguese government for their Consulate in Goa was that there were many Goans who sought Portuguese passport and in the absence of a Portuguese Consulate in Goa they had to travel to the Embassy of Portugal in New Delhi.

“I was required to decide on this issue. However, since the matter concerned my own State of Goa, I referred it to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister advised me to permit the Portuguese Consulate in Goa and the Consulate did come into existence here in 1994,” Mr. Faleiro said.

He said that the then PM Narasimha Rao intended to allow dual citizenship but this proposal was ultimately dropped because it was felt that “we should not allow dual citizenship to other countries without including our own neighbours”.

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