The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday cancelled the citizenship of TRS MLA from Vemulawada in north Telangana Chennamaneni Ramesh. A son of freedom fighter parents, Ramesh has been a citizen of Germany in the past, and had acquired Indian citizenship in 2009. Since then, he has been politically active and won all elections he has contested. He started his political career with the TDP in 2009, but moved to the TRS in 2010 at the height of Telangana agitation.
The MHA has cancelled his citizenship on the ground of misrepresentation of facts at the time of applying for citizenship in 2008.
Why Ministry acted
Ramesh, who had been living in Germany since 1993, applied for Indian citizenship on March 31, 2008 and was granted the same on February 4, 2009. On June 15, 2009, Congress leader from Karimnagar Adi Srinivas filed a revision application, raising objection to the grant of citizenship to Ramesh. Srinivas pointed out that Ramesh had retained his German citizenship, and had travelled to Germany in the year preceding the date of his application for Indian citizenship, which was in violation of The Citizenship Act, 1955.
Based on this, the MHA formed a committee, which investigated the matter for nine years before submitting in its report in March 2017 that Ramesh had indeed, obtained citizenship fraudulently. The MHA cancelled Ramesh’s citizenship in August that year.
Ramesh filed a review plea, which was rejected that December, following which the MLA went to the High Court. The court granted him relief in July 2019, and asked the Home Ministry to reconsider its decision.
In an order served to Ramesh on November 20, the MHA has said that in his application for citizenship filed on March 31, 2008, he did not disclose that he had not lived in India for 12 months before the date of the application, even though he had made multiple trips to Germany during this period. This, the MHA has said, was in violation of The Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Rules under it.
The MHA has said that when a clarification was sought from Ramesh in November 2008 about his foreign visits, he had maintained that he had not made any visits abroad.
“Thus he obtained registration of citizenship under section 5(1)(f) by means of fraud, false representation and concealment of facts and his action attracts provisions of section 10(2) of the Act. This makes him liable to be deprived of his Indian citizenship,” the MHA order said.
Sections 5(1)(f) and 10(2)
These sections deal with grant of citizenship and the authority of the government to cancel the same. According to Section 5(1)(f), “…the Central Government may, on an application made in this behalf, register as a citizen of India any person …if a person of full age and capacity who, or either of his parents, was earlier citizen of independent India, and has been residing in India for one year immediately before making an application for registration.”
Section 10(2) says: “Subject to the provisions of this section, the Central Government may, by order, deprive any such citizen of Indian citizenship, if it is satisfied that the registration or certificate of naturalisation was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact.”
The law, however, also provides for checks to ensure that citizenship is not cancelled arbitrarily. Section 10(3) of the Act says, “The Central Government shall not deprive a person of citizenship under this section unless it is satisfied that it is not conducive to the public good that person should continue to be a citizen of India.”
Ramesh has maintained innocence on the ground that at the time of application, the law did not specifically require him to “continuously” stay in India for 12 months prior to the date of application. He has also said that since he was a German citizen prior to getting Indian citizenship, he did not consider going to Germany a trip “abroad”, and therefore maintained that he had not made any trips abroad.
He has also argued that Srinivas’s revision petition was time barred — the law requires the objection to be raised within 30 days and, in case the government allows it beyond that period, it must be satisfied that the petitioner was prevented for making the application in time.
He said: “Dr Ramesh Chennamaneni is a sitting MLA and does not have any criminal background. Hence section 10(3) of the Act is not satisfied. …He was elected 4 times by the people of his constituency, being satisfied by his performance and development activity being carried out by him. He has not involved in terrorism, espionage, serious organized crime, war crime or unacceptable behavior. On the contrary, he has been doing lot of public good.”
The Ministry has noted that even the High Court had agreed that Ramesh had withheld information about his travel to Germany and, if at all he felt it was not a foreign country for him, he should have mentioned it to the Ministry and let the authorities decide.
“As a public representative, greater responsibility is thrust on Dr Ramesh Chennamaneni to be fair in making his submissions. His conduct shall stand as an example to the people whom he represents. …It is a well-known canon of law that ‘Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion’.”
According to the MHA, “The absence of criminal charge doesn’t mean that person having inclination to misrepresent would be doing good. In fact, there is a very large area of activity open to public representatives, where such economy of truth can seriously endanger public good.”
It has also said that it has taken the decision so as to not set a precedent.
Ramesh can go back to the High Court and challenge the decision. Thereafter, he can go to the Supreme Court. However, unless a stay order is granted on the MHA’s decision, he is sure to lose his membership of the Telangana Assembly. In case he does not get relief from the court, he will have the option of going through the whole process again, following which it would be the government’s discretion to grant him citizenship, if he satisfies all conditions.
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