Citizen of Portugual, MLA of Goa

By Prabhakar Timble
26 November 2013 11:05 IST

None should envy Goans born prior to the liberation for the privilege they enjoy of registering their birth in Portugal. It is a byproduct on account of over 450 years of subjugation and suppression as a Portuguese colony. Torn between love and belonging to Goa versus the commercial cake coupled with aspirations of settlement overseas in what is perceived as lands of opportunities, Goans want to take up the benefit of the facility which has descended on them as something like ancestral property. The registration of birth in Portugal is perceived as buying a lottery ticket hoping for a jackpot for the family. This concession comes with a loaded attachment with tendencies to alter your CPU. As per the Portuguese Nationality Act 2006, a person whose birth is registered in Portugal is clothed with the Portuguese nationality. Article 5 of the Constitution of India is clear that the Indian citizenship is lost to a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country.

Despite the full knowledge of this, there is a race for birth registration and Portuguese passport. For some, it is the drive for employment. For others, it is settlement in Europe for what they consider as refined and ‘‘civilized” quality of life. For the remaining, it is building a logistics track as an option for their children to move to the better part of the world.  The heart of those who register for the route to Europe via Portugal beats for Goa, if not for Bharat.  Goa haunts them in their dreams and the emotional bonding with Goa is everlasting. But, by operation of law they are aliens and cease to be Indian citizens. This is the status of Caetano Rosario D’Silva, MLA of Benaulim constituency. He is one of the many whose status has become public since he dared to take up the public office.

The status of the thousands of Goans who have registered their names in Portuguese records as claimed by Dr. Wilfred Mesquita, BJP Vice-President cannot be any different than that they cease to be Indian citizens. This is not ‘politicization of citizen’s issue’ but an assertion that persons occupying seats in legislative bodies and positions in government administration should be Indian citizens as mandated by the Indian Constitution.  There is an attempt from the BJP to play the community card not knowing that the all-India statistics would testify larger figures from majority community as having given up the citizenship of Bharat. In Goa too, the numbers from majority community are not lesser. The ‘parivartan’ in the BJP is not expected to reach such an unconstitutional height as to appease on issue of citizenship. As the fundamental law of India stands today, dual citizenship is not recognized. All those who have voluntarily acquired citizenship of another country are to be treated as foreign nationals and need to be governed by the Foreign Exchange and Management Act. They are expected as per law to follow the rules and declarations rather than to keep their foreign nationality hidden from the eyes of law. This is not an illicit relationship to be concealed.

Entry Prohibited

Before the world officially new that the MLAs of Benaulim and Aldona had given up Indian citizenship, both the concerned had full knowledge as they filed the nomination papers for the elections to the Goa Assembly. The two most likely might have also confided with the Chief Minister and the leaders of the ruling BJP. They made the task of the complainants and the government machinery difficult by their non-action in providing information, expecting the authority to gather the same. The initial litigation in the higher judiciary proved to be time-consuming. It took us two years to know that our legislators are no more citizens of India. During this period they debated in our legislature and also voted on bills and financial statements and would probably continue to do so.

It is high time that they take the principled decision to resign and save the sanctity of Vidhan Sabha.  It is unconstitutional and unethical to continue. Further, there can be prosecution under Indian Passport Act, Indian Citizenship Act and other penal laws. The Election Commission of India can initiate prosecution for swearing wrong affidavit whilst filing nomination papers for elections.  The same holds true for Officers in Goa administration and politicians on government corporations who have registered for this game of chance.

The attitude of the major political parties is lukewarm. Probably some of their senior leaders have also muddied their hands by registration of their birth in Portugal.

Lions silent, tigers sulk

The lions of nationalism with their ‘bharatiya’ frontal organizations would have built up pressure forcing the government to file a pile of criminal cases against the MLAs. The outfits would have denounced Portugal without rhyme and reason. The tigers of nationalism are quiet.  To retain power, a foreign national as a legislator colleague does not give discomfort. The ruling government could probably have the knowledge that this Portuguese ‘birth registration mosquito’ has bitten more than these known two and there may be few in the party organization. They are guiding both the MLAs to effectively use the delay mechanism legally available.

Freedom fighters lack patience to record their displeasure and disenchantment even if there is a cultural exchange between Goa and Portugal. Visits of democratically elected and respected national leaders of present day Portugal has drawn ire of the freedom fighters. They have used every single opportunity for black flag demonstrations and to exhibit the skeletons from the cupboard at the Freedom Fighters memorial. The diplomatic silence is an enigma as if an invisible Hand or Lotus is controlling the voice.

The two MLAs have cleared the popularity test in their constituencies cannot be a ground for them to occupy the democratic seat in the Assembly. The Governor in consultation with the Election Commission of India needs to act speedily. It should not happen that the august office of the Governor presides over this unconstitutionality.  In case the MLAs use the higher judiciary, the misuse needs to be prevented through a speedy determination.  The illegal and unconstitutional occupation in the Assembly has gone for two years. It should not happen that the two MLAs nearly complete the five year term and the ruling political party joins the two MLAs in the last laugh. The higher judiciary should also impose monetary fine for the fraud in swearing a wrong affidavit and for the failure to vacate the seat in Assembly. If the fundamental requirement of being a citizen of India as one of the eligibility qualification needs to stand tall and unblemished, the outcome should come not later than the next seating of the Goa Assembly. 

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

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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It would have been more explicit if Mr Prabakar had to elaborate on the Organic Law no 2, enforced on 17th of April 2006. I do not see any provisions mentioned therein as regards to the Citizens born in the former Portuguese State of India, but one can apply the provisions for attribution to Portuguese nationality in compliance with Article 1.

Thus on the basis of generalised codes, one should not conclude that the presumed former Citizen who has registered his birth in Portugal acquires Portuguese Nationality. Such statements are inconclusive.

I do respect the knowledge the writer has, but I suggest some research on these issues before publishing thesis.

- Ernest, UK | 06 th December 2013 16:58


The misconception amongst gullible (or perhaps over smart) goans has always been that the birth registration card does not confer foreign citizenship and thus allows them to enjoy the best of both worlds (foreign and goan). But alas.... reality is not as simple. All political parties are likely to be impacted as most everyone in goa has close relatives or friends who have obtained the card and also choose to retain their Indian passports and rights. A common thought prevailing was "who is going to find out?"

Goa and India government needs to come out with press releases directed towards Goans informing them about the impact of obtaining the card (or any other foreign citizenship). In addition to deleting their names from electoral roles...all such people should also be directed to the nearest administrative office to seek PIO/OCI/Visa status to continue their stay in Goa otherwise they risk their stay in Goa being termed as "illegal".

- V Shirodkar, Ponda | 26 th November 2013 19:52


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