SC throws out plea to debar Rahul Gandhi from contesting polls

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“Just because some company named Rahul Gandhi a British citizen, does he become a British citizen?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asks petitioner.

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition to debar Congress president Rahul Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha polls and “becoming a Member of Parliament” after he had “voluntarily acquired British nationality.”

The petition alleged that Mr. Gandhi acquired British nationality on the basis of an incorporation certificate of BACKOPS Limited, a defunct company in that country, and returns filed by it.

The plea was filed by Jai Bhagwan Goyal, a “social worker”, shortly after the Ministry of Home Affairs issued notice to Mr. Gandhi on the question of his “dual citizenship.”

“Just because some company named Rahul Gandhi a British citizen, does he become a British citizen?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked Mr. Goyal.

Mr. Goyal’s lawyer voiced the apprehension that Mr. Gandhi may even become the prime minister despite his ‘dual citizenship’.

“He is not aspiring to be Prime Minister… But if 123 crore people say ‘be the PM’, would you mind?” Chief Justice Gogoi asked Mr. Goyal.

The CJI asked the lawyer who his client actually is.

The lawyer said Mr. Goyal was a “public-spirited person and a social worker who is also in politics.”

“You are in the politics of social work?”, the CJI retorted.

‘Why approach court now?’

Justice Deepak Gupta then asked Mr. Goyal why he particularly chose 2019 to come to court with his apprehension about Mr. Gandhi’s citizenship status.

Mr. Goyal’s lawyer said the documents came to light only in 2015.

“Still it took you 2019 to approach the court?”, Justice Gupta said.

Mr. Goyal wanted the court to “command” the government to decide the question of voluntary acquisition of British citizenship by Mr. Gandhi and consequently determine his Indian citizenship. It sought a declaration that Mr. Gandhi “is not an Indian citizen and he is incompetent to contest as per the provisions of the Constitution read with the Representation of the People Act, 1951”.

Plea dismissed in 2015

On November 30, 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed a PIL plea filed by a lawyer seeking a CBI investigation against Mr. Gandhi for allegedly declaring himself a British national before the company law authorities in the U.K.

The court then found it too “frivolous” and called it an attempt by the lawyer to start a “roving inquiry”. It said PIL pleas were not meant to target an individual or organisation but a medium to resolve human suffering through good governance.

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