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September 22, 2020
English News

Two kids caught in Indian, British citizenship legal row

Two children of Indian parents — aged 9 and 11 — are the focus of legal action in the high court of England and Wales, with the local authority in Birmingham keen to apply for British citizenship on their behalf, and the parents opposed to the change of citizenship.

The high court on Thursday ruled that the local authority did not have the power to apply for British citizenship on the children’s behalf in the face of parental opposition and where that may lead to a loss of their existing citizenship, without first obtaining the court’s approval.

The parents and children have not been named in court documents, which state that the children are Indian citizens, born in the UK after their parents arrived here in 2004. They failed to get permanent residency. The mother moved to Singapore in 2015, while the father remains in England.

Prominent lawyer Harish Salve represented the father of the children, while a legally qualified Delhi-based individual named as ‘Rao’ in the judgement represented their Singapore-based mother. Both parents opposed the idea of British citizenship for the children.

The judgement said: “In August 2015, for reasons which it is not now necessary to describe, the children were removed from their parents and placed in a foster home where they have lived ever since. Contact with the parents has not taken place since that time”.

“The mother left the UK in November 2015 while pregnant and now lives in Singapore. The father has remained in England, but his antagonism towards the local authority has made contact unachievable. In the course of a complex set of proceedings, the children became the subject of placement orders”, it added.

Birmingham local authorities, who have been caring for the children since 2015, were keen to apply for British citizenship to regularise their immigration status. The Indian high commission was involved in the proceedings through a solicitor and an official attending some of the hearings.

The mother emphasised nationality as being fundamental to a person’s life, and of an importance that is on a par with serious medical treatment. Deprivation of Indian citizenship has consequences for succession and for the children’s ability to own land, she contended.

The local authority’s lawyer contended that a decision about a change of citizenship was not one of such magnitude that it had to be put before the court, comparing the decision “to routine vaccination and not to serious medical treatment”.

But Justice Peter Jackson ruled: “The characterisation of a change of citizenship as akin to routine vaccination is misplaced. Changing a child’s citizenship is a momentous step with profound and enduring consequences that requires the most careful consideration”.

The court asked the local authority to indicate whether it wished to progress the matter, in which case the judgement said the court will give appropriate directions.

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