PANJIM/MARGAO: Over the last one year, the Goa Passport Office has been revoking approximately one passport out of 15-20 sent to its office for surrendering the same.
Following a communication dated November 30, 2022, from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Portuguese authorities, indicating that citizenship is acquired upon birth registration in Portugal, the Regional Passport Office, Panjim initiated the revocation process on the basis that the MEA is now using the birth registration date in Portugal as the citizenship acquisition date.
Typically, Indian passport reissues or renewals aim to correct names for submission to Portuguese authorities, facilitating Portuguese citizenship. Previously, obtaining a Portuguese passport or acquiring a Bilhete de Identidade (identity card) determined foreign nationality acquisition. Now, it hinges on the date of birth registration in Portugal.
Experts note that if a passport is revoked during surrender, one cannot apply for an OCI card, making them a foreign national, who has to, in turn, obtain legal permission for being in the country.
Former MLA and Adv Radharao Gracias came down heavily on the Union government for revoking the passports of Indian citizens merely based on registration of birth in Portugal.
“Just cancelling the passport is illegal. As per the law show cause notices must be issued, the party must be heard and then you cancel. You can’t just summarily and arbitrarily cancel the passport,” argued Adv Gracias.
Adv Gracias also emphasised that one has to renounce their citizenship first. He pointed out that under Rule 23 of the Citizenship Rules, a citizen has to make a declaration of renunciation of citizenship, which shall be registered by the MEA and acknowledged shall be issued for the same.
Adv Gracias demanded that the MEA circular be made available for the public as it is adversely affecting the people. He added that without seeing the circular, a thorough legal assessment cannot be made.
“Article 9 of the Indian constitution says that persons voluntarily acquiring the citizenship of another country, lose the citizenship of India. The emphasis is on voluntary acquisition,” said Adv Gracias.
Adv Cleofato Almeida Coutinho had a different opinion “According to the Portuguese nationality law of 2006, registration of birth in Portugal registry is tantamount to obtaining citizenship. When a Goan registers his birth in Portugal voluntarily he/she ought to know that. For a long time, obtaining a passport was considered as proof of citizenship. Now if the Indian government accepts registration as citizenship, there may be nothing wrong unless someone says that he or she has not voluntarily registered his/her birth,” said Adv Coutinho
Former Information Commissioner Adv Juino De Souza said, “How would any Passport Officer across various Passport Offices know as to whose birth is registered in Lisbon and or who has acquired a Portuguese national identity card (Bilhete de Identidade) and or who is holding a Portuguese Passport?”
“Passport Officer is bound by law and has no authority to revoke or impound any Indian Passport under Section 10 in Passports Act, 1967 unless the holder of the Indian Passport has violated the provision of law on the basis of which he obtained the said Indian Passport,” De Souza said.