Citizenship; Ramesh Singh Vs. Smt. Sonia Gandhi [Allahabad High Court, 11-07-2016]

Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 – Section 5(1)(c) – Representation of People Act, 1951 – Section 81 – Election Petition – challenging the election of Smt. Sonia Gandhi, who was declared elected from 36 Rae Bareli Lok Sabha Constituency on 16th May, 2014 – Contends that she continues to be a citizen of Italy – Held,  The Central Government issued an order on 30th April, 1983 registering respondent no.1 as a citizen of India under Section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act. Such registration is still continuing and has not been cancelled, withdrawn or annulled till date. So long as the order issued under Section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act stands, respondent no.1 continues to remain a citizen of India.

Election Petition


HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD, LUCKNOW BENCH

Election Petition No.4 of 2014

Ramesh Singh …… Petitioner Vs. Sonia Gandhi and another ….. Respondents

Hon’ble Tarun Agarwala, J.

The petitioner has filed the present election petition under

Section 81 of the Representation of People Act, 1951

(hereinafter referred to as the Act) challenging the election of Smt. Sonia Gandhi, who was declared elected from 36 Rae Bareli Lok Sabha Constituency on 16th May, 2014. The petitioner contends that he is a resident of Rae Bareli and is also an elector and contends that the election of Sonia Gandhi should be declared void.

The facts, in brief, are that the Election Commission of India declared the election schedule for the 16th Lok Sabha on 5th March, 2014. The notification was issued on 2nd April, 2014. Smt. Sonia Gandhi filed her nomination papers on 2nd April, 2014. The polling was held on 30th April, 2014 and the result was declared on 16th May, 2014 on which date Smt. Sonia Gandhi was declared elected.

The petitioner contends that Smt. Sonia Gandhi was born on 9th December, 1946 in village Lusiana in the Republic of Italy and is a citizen of Italy. Her real name is Anotinia Manio. The respondent married Rajiv Gandhi on 25th February, 1968 and, after marriage, changed her name to Sonia Gandhi.

The petitioner contends that the respondent was granted the Indian citizenship w.e.f. 30th April, 1983 under

Section 5(1)(c) of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955

(hereinafter referred to as theCitizenship Act). The petitioner contends that under the Citizenship Act, there are two categories of citizens of India, namely, (1) citizenship as a right, i.e. citizenship acquired by a person by birth or by descent and (2) conferred citizenship, i.e. a person on whose application, the Central Government has a discretion to grant or not to grant Indian citizenship. The petitioner further contends that the conferred citizenship is of two types, namely, (a) citizenship by Registration and (b) citizenship by Naturalisation. The petitioner has made an elaborate submission contending that a person registered as a citizen of India becomes a citizen of India by a deeming fiction but is not ‘actually” a citizen of India within the meaning of Article 84 of the Constitution of India and cannot be considered at par with the citizens of India by birth or by descent. In other words, only persons who are citizens by birth or by descent qualify to be citizens of India underArticle 84 of the Constitution of India and, therefore, could qualify to be elected as a member of Lok Sabha. The petitioner contends that the respondent being granted a citizenship of India by registration under Section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act cannot enjoy the same rights as conferred to those persons who are granted citizenship of India by birth or descent.

The petitioner, therefore, contends that the words “citizen of India” as contemplated underArticle 84 of the Constitution of India refers to those persons who are citizens by birth or descent and not to those persons who have acquired citizenship of India by registration. It was thus contended that since Smt. Sonia Gandhi is a citizen of India by registration, she was not qualified to get elected as a member of the Lok Sabha under Article 84 of the Constitution of India. Further, she could not be registered as a voter in view of the provisions of Article 326 of the Constitution of India.

The petitioner further contended that Section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, Rule 4 of the Citizenship Rules, 1956 and Form III prescribed therein are unconstitutional and should be declared ultra vires the Constitution. Necessary pleadings have been spelt out in para 46 of the petition.

The petitioner further contended that the respondent is still a citizen of Italy and the laws of Italy does not permit its citizens to hold a dual citizenship. It was contended that the respondent has not renounced her citizenship of Italy and, therefore, the respondent could not become an Indian citizen.

The petitioner petitioner further contended that the respondent committed corrupt practice, namely, she made an appeal to vote on the ground of religion. The petitioner contended that as per news reports, it was revealed to the petitioner that on 31st March, 2014, Sri Rajiv Shukla a Congress Party leader, invited Syed Ahmad Bukhari to meet the respondent at her residence. The petitioner alleged that as per television news channel broadcast on 1st April, 2014, it was revealed to him that a meeting took place between the respondent and Syed Ahmad Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, New Delhi which lasted for about 45 minutes, and, on coming out of the meeting, Syed Ahmad Bukhari claimed that the respondent had requested him to endeavour and ensure that the Muslim votes should not split in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The petitioner further contended that the television news channel report of 4th April, 2014 revealed that Syed Ahmad Bukhari in a Press Conference declared his support to the Congress Party on the basis of the meeting held with the respondent on 1st April, 2014. According to the petitioner, Syed Ahmad Bukhari appealed to the muslim community to vote for the Congress Party and ensure that the secular votes are not split.

The petitioner contended that the appeal made by Syed Ahmad Bukhari was given wide publicity by the media, which influenced the Muslim voters to vote in favour of the respondent due to which the respondent won the election. The petitioner contended that the appeal by Syed Ahmad Bukhari to vote on religious lines is a corrupt practice and, therefore, the election of the respondent is void under Section 100(1)(b) of the Act. The petitioner, therefore, prayed that the election of Smt. Sonia Gandhi from 36 Rae Bareli Lok Sabha Constituency be declared void and her election be set aside. The petitioner has also prayed that Section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act be declared unconstitutional and void.

The respondent has filed her written statement. Shorn of details, the respondent contended that the election petition is totally false, frivolous, malicious and is liable to be dismissed. The respondent was duly granted citizenship of India and that she has renounced her citizenship of her native country Italy. The respondent has denied that she continues to be a citizen of Italy. The respondent further contended that she is a citizen of India for the purposes of Article 84(a) and326 of the Constitution of India. Further, the issue of her citizenship has been decided by the High Court in Election Petition No.1 of 2009 (Rakesh Singh Vs. Sonia Gandhi) vide judgment dated 14th February, 2011, which has attained finality and that the same issue cannot be raised again and is consequently, barred by the principle of res judicata. The respondent further denied that she indulged in corrupt practice on the ground of religion. The respondent contended that she had not given her consent to Syed Ahmad Bukhari on 4th April, 2014 to make an appeal on religious grounds. The respondent contended that she has been validly elected as a Member of Parliament.

The respondent has filed an application under Order 7, Rule 11(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure for the dismissal of the petition on the ground of lack of cause of action as well as under Section 86(1) of the Act for non-compliance of Section 81(1) and 81(3) of the Act. The respondent contended that the grounds raised in the election petition are vexatious and frivolous and is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court. The respondent contended that even if the allegations made in the petition are taken into consideration in entirety, the petition is liable to be dismissed as it does not disclose any cause of action. The respondent contended that only vague and general allegations have been made which does not disclose any material fact nor any triable issue arises for consideration. The respondent contended that there is lack of “facta probanda” and, therefore, there is lack of cause of action. The assertions made in the petiition is the personal opinion of the petitioner based on misinterpretation of law. Such assertion, based on personal opinion, and which does not contain any material fact are irrelevant, unnecessary and frivolous and is also an abuse of the process of law. The respondent contended that no cause of action has arisen for adjudication and thus the petition should be dismissed.

The respondent has also filed an application under Order 6, Rule 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure contending that imaginary and false insinuation has been levelled against the respondent without giving any details thereof. The respondent contended that paras 6 to 68 of the election petition has been verified by the petitioner on the basis of personal knowledge and information received but the petitioner has not disclosed the source from where the information or knowledge has been gathered. The respondent thus urged that on this ground itself the petition was liable to be dismissed at the threshold itself. The respondent contended that a newspaper report or television news cannot be a source of information for trial in an election petition and since the verification clause is contrary to the provisions of Order 6, Rule 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure, such pleading cannot amount to disclosure of any cause of action and, therefore, paras 6 to 68 of the petition should be struck off from the pleadings of the election petition.

The petitioner has contested the applications under Order 7, Rule 11(a) and under Order 6, Rule 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure contending that the applications are misconceived and without any foundation. The petitioner contended that on the basis of the pleadings made in the petition, a cause of action was made out and that the election petition deserves a full trial. The petitioner further contended that the verification of the paragraphs of the election petition are in consonance with the provisions of Order 6, Rule 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

In this backdrop, I have heard Sri Hari Shankar Jain, Sri Subash Vidyarthi, Ms. Ranjana Agnihotri and Ms. Sudha Sharma, the learned counsels for the petitioner and Sri P.P. Rao, the learned Senior Counsel, Sri Umesh Narain Sharma, the learned Senior Counsel assisted by Sri K.C. Mittal, Sri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ms. Maha Lakshmi Pavani, the learned counsel for respondent no.1.

By virtue of Section 87 of the Act, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure applies to the trial of an election petition and consequently, the Court trying an election petition can exercise the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, including Order 6, Rule 16 and/or Order 7, Rule 11. For facility the provisions of Section 87 of the Act, Order 6, Rule 16 and Order 7, Rule 11(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure are extracted hereunder: