Does 'Cartao' mean Portuguese Citizenship?

By Ashwin Tombat
03 June 2019 17:36 IST

The central government has once more raised the issue of Goans getting Portuguese citizenship. It has empowered the Collectors of North and South Goa Districts to scrutinise each application in terms of the Indian Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship Rules of 2009.

Apparently, up to 50,000 Goans presently hold “dual citizenship”. Verification by the Centre in 2015 revealed that several politicians, senior police officers, and bureaucrats held “Portuguese citizenship”. But many claim it was done “without my knowledge”.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notification, issued on Tuesday 28 May 2019, says: “[The] State Government would forward these recommendations to the Central Government along with its comments. The inquiry shall be conducted in [a] fair and transparent manner…” The notification is valid for two years.

What, actually, constitutes “Portuguese citizenship”?

This issue came to national prominence first in 2012, when Churchill Alemao’s daughter Valanka — who had lost the 2012 Goa Legislative Assembly election against Goa Vikas Party MLA Caetano de Silva alias Caitu — filed an election petition for his disqualification. She claimed he had voluntarily registered his birth in Portugal in 2010, thereby acquired Portuguese nationality and, as per rules, ceased to be an Indian national.

On 20 November 2013, the MHA declared that Caitu was a “Portuguese National”, for having voluntarily registered his birth in Portugal. This order also applied to BJP MLA Glenn Ticlo. But the MHA said that Ticlo had relinquished his Portuguese nationality in January 2013.

Caitu appealed to the High Court, which held on 20 October 2016 that the MHA had not followed proper procedure in determining that Caitu was a Portuguese national. The Court ordered it to decide the matter afresh.

In a subsequent order issued on 31 January 2017, the MHA completely reversed its earlier decision and held that Caitu was a citizen of India and “not a Portugal national”.

It is worth noting that in November 2013, when the MHA held that Caitu was a Portuguese national, Goa had a BJP government (which Caitu supported) but the Centre was ruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). In 2017, when it ruled that he was an Indian citizen, both Goa and the Centre were ruled by the BJP.

What exactly does the Central Government want to look into now?

Registration of birth in the Central Registry in Lisbon is just the first (but extremely essential) step in obtaining Portuguese nationality. This is the stage Caitu’s application (if indeed there was one) had reached. This, the MHA has already ruled in his case, is not equivalent to obtaining citizenship of Portugal.

After registration of birth a long process follows, with many more documents and approvals. At the end, the applicant is issued a Bilhete de Identidade de Cidadão Nacional (National Citizen Identity Card), or the newer, chip-based Cartão de Cidadão (Citizen Card).

It is not as yet clear whether possession of either of these cards — which can be used in place of a Schengen Visa to travel across European Union (EU) countries, or to gain residence and/or employment in any EU country — is considered as obtaining Portuguese nationality.

The third and last stage is obtaining a Portuguese passport. Here the law is crystal clear. Acquiring the passport of another country means automatically relinquishing Indian citizenship. Those who take this step must immediately surrender their Indian passports and apply for an Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) if they wish to continue to live in this country.

It is the second stage that is still a large grey area — of the actual status of those who have a Bilhete or Cartão — does possession of any of these cards mean acquisition of Portuguese citizenship? The answer will profoundly affect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Goans.

It is widely believed that the Goa governments under the late Manohar Parrikar, as well as Laxmikant Parsekar had taken the stand that the Bilhete or Cartão alone is not a proof of Portuguese nationality, and that individuals who held these cards should continue to be considered as Indian citizens.

But the new notification has specifically asked the Goa Government to forward the recommendations of the District Collectors to the Central Government “along with its comments”. Mr Parrikar is no more. Mr Parsekar is in political limbo.

What will the new government, let by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, recommend in this matter to Home Minister Amit Shah in the Modi 2.0 administration at the Centre? Let us wait and see.

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

Blogger's Profile

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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