Reciprocal Rights and Privileges

From Anish Sankalia:

The President is said to have informed her that according to Section 5 of the Citizenship Act of 1955, she has no right to assume the office of the Prime Minister of India and that he was seeking the advice of the Supreme Court on this issue. Section 5 of the Citizenship Act of 1955 says the rights and privileges allowed to foreigners who become citizens by application (not by birth) are conditional upon the rights and privileges granted to Indians in the country of the concerned person’s origin (in this case Italy).

The President reportedly told Sonia that he had to ascertain the legal position in this matter as there was no confirmation that all the rights and privileges granted to persons of Italian origin are reciprocated by Italy in the case of Indians who become citizens of that country. Sonia is said to have decided not to take the risk after the President’s briefing.

So there. Sort of what happens in commerce — you grant most favored nation (MFN) status to a country only if they grant you MFN. Also, you grant a certain number of landing-slots to the carrier of a foreign country only if they grant you reciprocal rights in theirs.

A naturalized Italian citizen of Indian origin cannot become the municipal commissioner of a third rate town in Italy. India cannot in good conscience reciprocate by allowing a naturalized Indian citizen of Italian origin to become the chief of the executive branch of the government.

Of course, there is a very compelling personal reason for Mrs S Maino Gandhi to not take a shot at the PM’s seat — security. Indian soldiers provide personal security to Indian leaders, not Italian soldiers. At some level deep inside, soldiers have very strong sense of nationality and duty and honor and pride and all sorts of things that make them willing to put their lives in danger for the protection of their motherland. I, as an Indian, would not trust Italian soldiers to keep their guns pointed the right way if I was to somehow get to become the prime minister of Italy.

Be that as it may, it was a pragmatic decision. A challenge in the Supreme Court of India would have been all and she would have been asked to vacate. Better to take the high road and avoid being thrown out, is my guess.

Categories: Indian Bureaucracy and Politicians

6 replies

  1. Did Balaji TV’s scrip go down today?

    Ekta Kapoor bow out…..Maam is the uncrowned queen of soap operas!!

    Meanwhile, Atanu, you shld go and buy a TV….and make sure you don’t miss out the daily soaps!!


  2. Here’s the relevant line from Sec 5 of the 1955 Citizenship Act.

    PROVIDED that in prescribing the conditions and restrictions subject to which persons of any such country may be registered as citizens of India under this clause, the Central Government shall have due regard to the conditions subject to which citizens of India may, by law or practice of that country, become citizens of that country by registration.

    It is not “rights and privileges” that are at issue here, but the *conditions* whereby an Indian may acquire citizenship in Italy. For more, go to

    The Supreme Court of India heard a similar challenge(based on Sec 5) to Sonia’s citizenship in Sept, 1999 and dimissed the petition.


  3. BTW, a more valid reason (if any) could be Sec 102 of the constitution (deals with MP’s) which talks about “adherence to another state” and her owning property in Italy might be grounds for this “adherence.”


  4. Reuben, you are correct. From an article in yesterday’s Pioneer:


    “The most damaging clarification that has apparently been sought relates to Article 102 of the Constitution that says: “A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament” on any or more of five possible grounds. Clause(d) of the same Article says “… or is under any acknowledgement of allegiance or adherence to a foreign state”.

    The term “adherence” had to be clarified specifically as Ms Gandhi in her affidavit before the Returning Officer of the Rai Bareli parliamentary constituency had stated that she owned ancestral property, namely portion of a house, in Orbassano, Italy, the country of her origin.

    This fact of ownership, legal experts say, makes her subject to Italian law in this matter and could be interpreted as “adherence” to a foreign country. Since this portion of the ancestral property was apparently bequeathed to her by her father in his will, she inherited it only after his death. Consequently, the property was not her’s when she filed her 1999 nomination affidavit.

    Article 103 states that “if any question arises as to whether a member of either House of Parliament has become subject to disqualification mentioned in Article 102, the question shall be referred for the decision to the President and his decision shall be final”. Clause 2 of the Article says: “Before giving any decision on such question, the President shall obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and shall act according to such opinion.”



  5. Rashtrapati Bhavan apparently has responded to the Pioneer allegation and the citizenship in general, if this report can be believed.

    The Rashtrapati Bhavan has denied that President A P J Abdul Kalam raised the issue of citizenship during his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. “The matter was not discussed at all,” S M Khan, the President’s press secretary, told

    A leading daily had said that Kalam asked her about Article 5 of the Constitution, which refers to citizenship.

    Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Govindacharaya, met the President and raised the issue of Gandhi’s foreign origin, he said. “The President simply heard them out.”



    Of all the sycophants, the Guardian should take the cake. Look what was written in the Britian’s Guardian:

    Yet there seems to have been more political calculation, and less of emotion, behind her decision than at first sight appears – and it could, in the end, be the right one for Congress and for India. Mrs Gandhi has learned fast in the past six years how to make the most of the charisma attached to her name, and her nationality is irrelevant for the millions of poor and illiterate who tipped the balance in the polls. She may be Italian by birth but for them she is Mother India.


%d bloggers like this: