Churchill, Caitu and the Facts

By Ashwin Tombat
19 February 2017 20:43 IST

Churchill Alemao has publicly declared that Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar "pressurised and shunted out" an officer in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to help Benaulim MLA Caetano Silva alias Caitu and save him from being disqualified in the Citizenship case instituted by his daughter Valanka and John Fernandes.

Is he right? We will look into that a little later, but the fact is that the latest order of the MHA on the question of registration of birth in Lisbon and acquisition of Portuguese citizenship has brought clarity and logic to a complicated question that affects hundreds if not thousands of Goans.

Caetano Rosario Silva registered his birth with the Central Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Lisbon on 21 July 2010. Registration of birth in Portugal accords the registrant the right to obtain Portuguese citizenship. Article 5 of the Constitution of India does not envisage a dual citizenship. Those who become citizens of another country automatically cease to be citizens of India.

But is registration of birth in Lisbon the same as acquisition of Portuguese citizenship? Not quite. Registration of birth is essential, but it is only the first step of a process. There are other steps, like a clean criminal record. The applicant must go through a personal interview before Portuguese citizenship is granted.

The actual document that confers Portuguese citizenship is not a Portuguese birth certificate, but a citizenship card; the 'Cartao de Cidadao', which has replaced the older 'Bilhete de Identidade'. Those who possess either of these two documents (or a Portuguese Passport) are Portuguese citizens. Therefore, they can no longer be citizens of India.

But it could happen that one's children, who were born after Goa was liberated on 19 December 1961, wish to acquire Portuguese citizenship. The only way they can get it is by registering in Lisbon the birth of any one of their parents — who were born in Goa before 19 December 1961.

While this may entitle the registered parent to Portuguese citizenship, it does not automatically confer this citizenship on the parent concerned.

In Caitu's case, the MHA, in its order of 20 November 2013, had stated: "Caetano Rosario Silva ceased to be a citizen of India from the date he registered his birth with the Central Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Lisbon as Portuguese national, wef 21/07/2010."

Silva challenged this decision before the Bombay High Court. On 20 October 2016, the High Court noted that Silva had not taken Portuguese citizenship or nationality, set aside the Home Ministry order, and directed the MHA to examine the matter afresh and as per law.

The fact is that the MHA had come to the conclusion that registration of birth in Lisbon is by itself not the same as acquiring Portuguese citizenship in 2015, long before its earlier order was struck down by the High Court. However, the matter was before the Court, and it could do very little at the time.

A high level inter-ministerial meeting in New Delhi on 5 June 2015 in the presence of the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice went further to suggest a 'one-time amnesty' be granted to Goans to retain Indian citizenship. But this proposal could not be implemented without an amendment in the Citizenship Act and Rules, and was therefore dropped.

Churchill may have his political instincts and savvy in the right place, but his accusations against Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar fall flat. His timeline is all wrong...

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Ashwin Good analysis, very professional and unbiased.

You should write more.

- Ojas, USA | 26 th February 2017 19:37


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