Explained: With Dominica having dropped the case against Mehul Choksi, where do India’s efforts to bring him back stand?

In May last year, Choksi was arrested in Dominica Charged with entering the country illegally from Antigua, a country he obtained citizenship in 2017, and in which he has been residing since 2018. Choxey claimed at the time of his arrest that he had been kidnapped from Antigua and Barbuda, by Indian agents, and forcibly taken to Dominica on a yacht.

India attempted to deport Choksi from Dominica, but its efforts reached an impasse after he was released on medical bail in July 2021, and allowed to return to Antigua and Barbuda.

What did India do to restore Choksi?

After Choksi was detained in Dominica, a special plane carrying Indian officials of the Caribbean island nation arrived on May 28 last year to bring him back. But after the case of the alleged illegal entry was brought to court in Dominica, the plane was forced to turn back.

Chocci’s legal team confirmed that, contrary to the allegations made by the Antigua authorities, the goldsmith did not escape from Antigua but was kidnapped after a honey trap was placed for him. The legal team alleged Choxy had been friends with a woman for six months, and he was summoned to an apartment in Antigua on May 23 last year – where he was kidnapped by a group of men. They alleged that he was then beaten and forced to board a yacht before being taken to Dominica.

In June, Antigua media reported that “the Antigua and Barbuda Cabinet favors … the return of Choksi to India from Dominica.” Subsequently, the country’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown said on multiple occasions that the citizenship of the “alleged fraudster” would be revoked, and that he would be returned to India.

However, Choksi’s lawyers argued that Diamond was no longer an Indian citizen, and that he could not be sent there against his will. Choksi acquired Antigua citizenship just over a month before he fled India in January 2018, benefiting from the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP), under which an individual can obtain an Antigua and Barbuda passport by investing $100,000 .

What was India’s argument?

Sources in the Indian agencies pursuing Choksi assert that he may have handed over his passport, India did not accept this, and the passport delivery certificate was not issued to him. They say, Interpol issued a red notice against Choksi for financial crimes committed in India.

The Indian agencies debated these points before the Dominican Supreme Court. But the court released him on bail and allowed him to return to Antigua.

What does the law stipulate for Chuxie’s nationality?

India does not allow dual citizenship. As per Section 9 of the Indian Citizenship Act 1955, any Indian citizen who acquires a foreign citizenship is no longer an Indian citizen.

“Any Indian national who has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country by naturalization or registration or has voluntarily acquired, or at any time between 26 January 1950 and the commencement of this Act, the citizenship of another country, upon such acquisition or, as the case may be, such commencement, He is no longer an Indian citizen,” Section 9 says.

The only exception when this law does not apply is when the two countries concerned are at war with each other.

Neither the law nor the 2009 Nationality Rules specify any procedure required to terminate citizenship if a foreign nationality is acquired. Legal experts say the law is clear that Indian citizenship will cease to exist the moment one obtains foreign citizenship.

How about an Indian Choksi passport?

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Passports Act 1967 requires all Indian passport holders to hand over their passports to the nearest Indian mission/centre immediately upon obtaining foreign citizenship. Misuse of Indian passports constitutes an offense under Section 12(1a) of the Passports Act 1967.

“Indian Nationality Act 1955, dual citizenship is not allowed. The Government of India has set a penalty on a graduated scale, depending on the number of trips made on an Indian passport after acquiring a foreign citizenship, for violating and retaining passport rules,” the ministry says on its website at Internet “.

However, the sources said that the intent of the law is to prevent anyone from using an Indian passport to travel after acquiring foreign citizenship.

Some countries, which do not allow dual citizenship, insist on handing over the Indian passport before formalizing the citizenship of their country. However, this is not the case with Antigua. In any case, it is not important whether you have handed in your Indian passport or not. A former Ministry of External Affairs official who handled passport issues said, if a foreign country grants you citizenship, under Indian law you stop remaining an Indian citizen.

What can India do now?

India had a chance to get Choksi back if it could convince the Dominican court that it had a strong legal case against him and that he was a fugitive. With the case in Dominica withdrawn, that option is now closed.

Now, for all practical purposes, Choksi remains a citizen of Antigua until his citizenship is revoked through legal process in that country. India could try to use diplomatic channels to persuade Antigua and Barbuda to do so, but the outcome of those efforts remains uncertain.

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