HC Stays Revocation of Passports of Devyani Khobragade's Kids

New Delhi
HC Stays Revocation of Passports of Devyani Khobragade's Kids

Delhi High Court today stayed a government order revoking Indian passports of the daughters of Devyani Khobragade, an IFS officer and former Deputy Consul- General of India in New York, for having US passports.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher stayed the December 30, 2014 order of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), saying it had revoked the passports without issuing a show cause notice or hearing them.

"Did you issue a show cause notice before passing the order of revocation? You can't proceed in this fashion, that you revoke passport without giving hearing or issuing a show cause notice," the court said and added, "in these circumstances, impugned order (of December 30, 2014) is stayed."

The court issued notice to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and MHA on the plea by Khobragade's kids and sought their replies by October 8.

Till the matter is pending in court, the children would travel on their US passports and they will be issued visa by the Indian government when they wish to return, the MHA said.

Central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul submitted that there was no restraint on the kids from travelling or staying in India and they can travel on their US passports.

He also said that Indian law does not permit holding of dual citizenship or two passports and added that earlier the children were issued diplomatic passports which can be revoked without giving any reason.

The court, however, was of the view that the Passports Act does not differentiate between the two.

The passports were revoked by the government on the grounds that the girls, aged nine and six years, had "voluntarily acquired US citizenship" as they had last year travelled there on passports of that country, senior advocate Amit Sibal, appearing for the children, said.

He said their Indian passports were revoked without issuing them a show cause notice.

Sibal said since the girls were deemed US citizens by birth, till they decide to renounce that citizenship on attaining the age of majority, and the US embassy here had not issued visa to them to travel to America.

Hence, their mother had applied for US passports for the two minor girls, he said.

He also alleged that the government in an internal communication had said that the kids have ceased to be Indian citizens and sought quashing of that as well.

Sibal also refuted the government's contention that Khobragade had suppressed the fact that her kids had US passports while applying for Indian passports.

The petition has contended that a minor can have dual citizenship as per an amendment in the Citizenship Act and will have to state their preference within six months of attaining the age of majority.

If they fail to do so in the stipulated time then they cease to be Indian citizens, the plea has said.

Apart from seeking quashing of the revocation order, the plea has also sought renewal of the kids' Indian passports.

Khobragade, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, was arrested in the US in 2013 in a visa fraud case and has already faced disciplinary proceedings here for allegedly acquiring US citizenship for her minor daughters.

She was arrested in the US on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid and later released on a USD 250,000 bond.

The issue had escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row between the US and India, which had retaliated by downgrading privileges of certain category of US diplomats, among other steps.

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