Tibet Sun Newsroom
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 29 March 2017
The Government of India has decided to issue passport to Tibetans born in India in accordance with the Indian Citizenship Act.
A memorandum from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has ordered that passport facilities be made available to all Tibetan refugees born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987. The letter, dated 17 March 2017, was sent to all Passport Offices in India, as well as all Indian Missions and Posts abroad.
This was in result of a case brought against the Government of India by Lobsang Wangyal, in which the Citizenship Act 1955 was affirmed by the High Court of Delhi on 22 September 2016.
The High Court on that date directed the MEA and all Passport-issuing authorities to process the applications for passports of eligible Tibetan refugees, or be liable for contempt of court.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was requested by the MEA to let them know if they intended to file an appeal against the High Court’s ruling.
In the meantime, the MEA complied with the High Court’s order, and issued passports to Lobsang Wangyal and the other petitioners involved in the case.
Subsequently the MHA informed the MEA that they did not intend to file an appeal against the Delhi High Court order of 22 September.
After this same court order, a number of Tibetan refugees had also filed cases requesting the High Court declare them as Indian citizens by birth under the Citizenship Act 1955. The High Court clubbed together all such matters for a single hearing on 29 March 2017, to which MEA observed that unless there is a stay against the court order dated 22 September, non-compliance of the same in general in respect of all such Tibetan Refugees would amount to contempt of the High Court.
In view of the above, the MEA decided that all passport-issuing authorities in India and abroad, subject to the usual checks and other passport formalities, “shall process all the pending applications of Tibetan refugee applicants born in India between 26/01/1950 to
01/07/1987, for the issue of passports treating them as the Indian citizens by birth under Section 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”
The MEA also stated that if the Police Verification Report (which is required as part of the passport application process) is “ADVERSE” only because the Tibetan refugee “is not an Indian citizen by birth”, this should not be taken as Adverse, and passport should be issued as long as the applicant is otherwise eligible.
Lobsang’s case was filed in Delhi High Court in May 2016 by his lawyers Giriraj Subramanium and Simarpal Singh Sawhney. The case was filed after his passport application was rejected, and his attempts failed to get a citizenship certificate from MHA.
On 22 September, honourable Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of Delhi High Court in a landmark judgement quashed the government’s rule to ask for a citizenship certificate, which was blocking Tibetans from getting a passport. The court ruling paved the way for Tibetans to obtain an Indian passport.
Tibetans have been living in India since 1959 after the Chinese occupation of their country. There are 90,000 Tibetans in India according to the records of the Central Tibetan Administration. They are issued a stay permit which needed to be renewed every year, until the recent change to every five years.
So far they have been travelling with an “Identity Certificate” which many say is troublesome to use, due to at least a year of wait to get one, and other permits associated with it.
With the change in the rules, Tibetans could now apply for passport following the usual rules.