By Dr S.P. Gupta
Few years back, a learned lawyer, Ram Jethmalani raised the issue of citizenship of Sonia Gandhi in a very forceful manner. In fact, Sonia is a naturalised alien. It is true that naturalised aliens also become citizens of India by taking the prescribed oath of allegiance but this became possible only in 1955 when the Citizenship Act was enacted for the first time. Till then the only citizenship known to the Indian law was one arising under Article 5.
Sonia started residing in India after her marriage in 1968. She might have thereby pledged fidelity to her husband but it is not the same thing as swearing allegiance to India. Apart from the primary citizenship under Article 5 of the Constitution and citizenship by naturalisation, there is a further class who become citizen by registration. It is not clear whether Sonia belongs to this class or the other one; there is a serious doubt created by two circumstances. First, how did Sonia'sname enter into the electoral roll in 1980 as a voter? It is impossible to believe that Sonia did not know that she had become a voter. Why then did she not take adequate steps to remove her name from the electoral roll?
The second raises a serious question. No national of Italy can obtain Indian citizenship unless the law of Italy contains reciprocal provisions permitting Indian women to acquire it. The vital question of the Constitution that arises is whether the constitutional requirements that a Prime Minister, like the President, must be a citizen of India requires the primary citizenship by birth or blood under Article 5 of the Constitution or does it cover citizenship acquired by an alien by naturalisation?
The rationale is that there are certain positions in which a nation cannot take the slightest risk. It will be wholly irresponsible to suggest that Sonia is in fact a security threat. There is no evidence. Civil servants marrying foreigners may well be watched but who watches the Prime Minister?
(The writer teaches Physics at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra.)