PNB Scam Accused Nirav Modi's Dual Citizenship Issue: Everything You Need to Know

File photo of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi.

File photo of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi.

According to reports, Nirav, like his brother Nishal, are long-term residents of Antwerp, Belgium. While Nishal is said to have surrendered his Indian passport after acquiring Belgian citizenship, Nirav declared himself an Indian national.

Debayan Roy
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New Delhi: Apart from financial fraud worth Rs 11,000 crore, diamond merchant Nirav Modi may also be guilty of illegally acquiring the citizenship of a foreign country even while possessing an Indian passport.

According to reports, Nirav, like his brother Nishal, are long-term residents of Antwerp, Belgium.

Most of the diamonds traded across the world pass through Belgium, because of which a number of Indian diamond merchants have ties with the country. While Nishal is said to have surrendered his Indian passport after acquiring Belgian citizenship, Nirav declared himself an Indian national.

However, there are claims that Nirav acquired Belgian citizenship as well. Can an Indian national be a national of another country too? News18 answers:

What is Dual Citizenship?

Simply put, if more than one country recognizes you as their citizen, then you are in possession of dual citizenship. Every country decides and sets rules on who all it wants to consider as its citizens on its own.

There is no international convention which determines the nationality or citizen status of a person. Citizenship status is defined exclusively by national laws, which can vary and can conflict with each other.

Multiple citizenship arises because different countries use yardsticks, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, criteria for citizenship.

What are the ways citizenship is granted in India?

India has primarily five methods by which it grants citizenship to an individual. They are Citizenship at the Commencement of the constitution of India where persons domiciled in the territory of India as of 26 November 1949 automatically became Indian citizens by virtue of operation of the relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution. Next is Citizenship by descent where persons born outside India on or after 26 January 1950 but before 10 December 1992 are citizens of India by descent if their father was a citizen of India at the time of their birth, and the other is Citizenship by Naturalisation where citizenship can be acquired by a foreigner (not illegal migrant) who is ordinarily resident in India for 12 years.

Then what is Citizenship by registration?

The Central Government can allow an individual to register as a citizen of India under the Citizenship Act 1955 any person (not being an illegal migrant) if the person belongs to any of the following categories:

a. Person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making application. Now a person of Indian origin is usually a resident in any country or place outside undivided India or a person who is married to a citizen of India and is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration.

Where does India stand on dual citizenship?

India categorically does not allow dual citizenship. There is an automatic loss of Indian citizenship covered in Section 9(1) of the Citizenship act 1955, which lays down any citizen of India who by naturalisation or registration acquires the citizenship of another country shall cease to be a citizen of India.”

Simply, this means, you have to give up Indian passport and citizenship to the nearest Indian embassy, should you become citizen of foreign country.

Even a seal is affixed at the back of passport mentioning it is a punishable offence under Indian Passports Act of 1957, of any possession of Indian passport, should the passport holder acquires nationality of another country.

So, in Modi case, How to get hold of Belgian citizenship? What are the rules on dual citizenship?

Belgium is one of the most flexible countries in Europe to acquire citizenship as a foreign national. In Belgium, it's possible to apply for citizenship after 3 years of legal residence. Belgium has no restrictions on dual citizenship which means you can hold your current passport together with a Belgian passport.

Can Indian authorities force you to surrender your citizenship of another country should you apply for Indian citizenship?

When you become an Indian citizen there exists a mandatory obligation for you to give up your previous nationality. The process for renouncing your previous citizenship will depend on where you're from - there may be fees to pay and it's likely to take some time. These checks usually exists so that you do not evade taxes, or other liabilities.

Are there exceptions to the bar?

An exception is made for minors who acquire foreign citizenship involuntarily. At the age of 18, if they wish to take up Indian citizenship, it is granted immediately if they give up their foreign citizenship.

What is the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) scheme?

The Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) programme is an option if either your parents, grandparents or great grandparents were from India but you subsequently were raised elsewhere.

You can register and get a card which offers you some of the benefits extended to natural born Indians. In some cases, the spouse of an OCI card holder can also register, and receive benefits.

OCI should not be confused with dual citizenship and it does not offer all the benefits other citizens of India have.

However, there exists limitations on eligibility. Not only must you fulfill the family eligibility described above, you can be barred from the scheme if you or a family member live or have ever lived in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

What is the legal recourse against an individual in possession of dual citizenship? Does Indian citizenship automatically cease to exist?

According to lawyers proficient in dealing with such matters, a commission or an inquiry committee is usually set up with members from the Ministry of External Affairs is set up under the mandate of the Citizenship act should such an offence is brought to the notice of the authorities. After conclusion, if the authorities think that the offender has indeed acquired a citizenship illegally in spite of being an Indian national, then the citizenship and passport stands revoked.

However, if he has committed fraud or crimes during the possession of Indian citizenship, then they can be tried as per Indian laws and a request of extradition can be made to the country where the accused is holed up or is residing.

On some earlier occasions, politicians like Manohar Parrikar had come out in support of dual citizenship. Portugal recognizes people born in Goa during Portuguese rule as its citizens if they only register their births with the Portuguese government. They have no problem granting dual citizenship to Indians but India requires these citizens to give up their passport on taking up Portuguese citizenship.

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