Citizenship case: Indian govt calls Tamil refugees as illegal migrants

The Indian Government has preferred an appeal before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court against a Single Bench order that directed the Centre to consider the plea of 65 Tamils from Sri Lanka, the descendants of indentured labourers, seeking Indian citizenship, The Hindu reported. 

The Indian Government said that the Single Judge had failed to consider the fact that the 65 Tamils were not willing to get the benefit of the Sirimavo-Shastri Pact, ( The pact signed in 1964 between the governments allowed for repatriation of persons of Indian origin).

The 65 Tamils had not applied for getting repatriation till October 30, 1981. There were about 60,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in 107 camps in Tamil Nadu on the same footing. It is said that additionally 35,000 non camp Tamil refugees are living in Tamil Nadu.

It further reports that, the Indian Government said issuance of citizenship to these Tamils would most likely open floodgates for illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Myanmar (Rohingyas), Africa and the Central Asian Countries.

In the case on hand, these 65 Tamils being illegal migrants have no legal right to seek Indian citizenship and the relief claimed is specifically barred by the Citizenship Act, the Centre said and sought the order of the Single Bench to be set aside.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam admitted the appeal and adjourned the hearing till August 23. The judges said the appeal has to be heard in the light of the observations made by the Single Bench.

Taking note of the fact these 65 Tamils filed a contempt petition before the Single Bench, the judges said that the Single Bench should be slow in allowing the contempt proceedings to be pursued before the conclusion of the appeal.

In 2019, the Single Bench allowed these 65 Tamil people to submit a fresh application to the District Collector concerned seeking Indian citizenship. Most of these 65 Tamils were lodged at the Transit camp in Kottapattu in Tiruchi district.

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