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Supreme Court rejects petition against Sonia becoming PM

By Our Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 24. The Supreme Court today dismissed at the admission stage a public interest writ petition to restrain the Congress president, Antonia Maino, alias Sonia Gandhi, a citizen of foreign origin, from becoming the Prime Minister.

A vacation bench comprising Justice Ruma Pal and Justice B.N. Agrawal told the petitioner, Ashok Pandey, who appeared in person, that the petition had become infructuous (in view of Ms. Gandhi declining the Prime Minister's post).

When the petitioner insisted that the issue of Ms. Gandhi's foreign origin was very much alive and that his petition should be referred to a five-Judge Constitution bench, the judges said that the issue had already been settled by the Supreme Court in the Hari Shankar Jain case. (Mr. Jain had questioned Ms. Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha in 1999 from the Amethi constituency on the ground that she was not an Indian citizen).

However, the petitioner continued to insist that the issue had not been decided and that the matter should be referred to a Constitution bench. He submitted that the court was in the habit of dismissing petitions without a hearing. Irked by this submission, the Bench imposed a fine of Rs 30,000 on him. (This was later waived on his making a representation.) It was only after the court warned the petitioner "we will have you arrested if you go on like this" that he relented.

Mr. Pandey submitted that he had filed the petition to protect the country from the danger of an Italian-born becoming the Prime Minister. He said Ms. Gandhi had been elected leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party and she was likely to stake her claim to form the government. Her appointment as Prime Minister would not be in the interest of national independence, sovereignty and security. The Supreme Court must intervene immediately to preserve and protect the Constitution and restrain Ms. Gandhi from becoming Prime Minister.

The petitioner also questioned the legality of her becoming a citizen of India in 1983. It was the late Rajiv Gandhi who, during his tenure as Prime Minister, amended the Citizenship Act, introducing a section under which citizenship was sought to be granted to a person who married an Indian. However, since the amendment came into force only on July 1, 1987, grant of Indian citizenship to Ms. Gandhi in 1983 was illegal and a nullity, he argued.

Till such time the issue was decided the court should restrain the Secretary to the President from inviting Ms. Gandhi from forming the government, the petitioner said.

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