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Approach of Home Office to nationality case “astonishing and grotesque” rules High Court

My colleague Adrian Berry has done an excellent write up of one of his cases over on his blog that I can heavily recommend as reading: British Citizenship by Descent:Trial and Error.

The case is R (Bondada) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWHC 2661 (Admin), a challenge to a refusal by British officials to recognise the British citizenship of a lady who was a survivor of domestic violence looking to rebuild her life.

The key nationality law issue boiled down to whether the claimant could prove that she was the daughter of the man she claimed as her father. He was dead, so a direct DNA test was impossible. However, DNA tests did show that the claimant was related as claimed to her four other siblings and that all five of them were the children of their claimed mother. Logically, then, the only way that the claimant might not be her father’s daughter was if her mother had secretly had a lover responsible for the birth of all five of the children. This was the position adopted by the Secretary of State in refusing to recognise the claimant as a British citizen.

The judge, Mr Justice Walker, is extremely critical of the conduct and approach British officialdom and those acting on behalf of the Secretary of State:

84. In these circumstances it is both astonishing and grotesque that those acting on behalf of the Home Secretary have put in issue whether that same father was Chandraiah. The Home Secretary’s stance is astonishing because it necessarily asks the court to say that Ganikamma may have had a secret lover who was the biological father of Kurma, Kandeswara and Tata while she lived with Chandraiah in Burma in the 1950s, and after the birth of Tata in India had the same secret lover who was the father of her remaining two children, Punyavathi and Deelavathi. This unsupported speculation is so far-fetched as to be absurd. It is not a real possibility, let alone a possibility of such substance as to enable the court to make a finding that Deelavathi has not shown on the balance of probability that Chandraiah was her father.

85. However it is not merely an astonishing stance. The Home Secretary’s stance in this regard is grotesque. The finding that the Home Secretary urges upon the court would amount to a repulsive distortion of evidence that had repeatedly been put before those acting for the Home Secretary, had rightly been accepted on behalf of the Home Secretary by the Liverpool Nationality Enquiries Team, and had with unfailing courtesy and meticulous care been explained repeatedly to others acting on behalf of the Home Secretary. With not a shred of evidence capable of justifying such a stance, those acting on behalf of the Home Secretary have chosen to impugn the fidelity of a blameless 86 year old woman and to impugn the parentage of her five remaining children. Those acting on behalf of the Home Secretary have stopped short of explicitly advancing a positive assertion that the admittedly common father of all five children was someone other than Chandraiah. But they have instead adopted a stance which, with no justification at all, puts the siblings’ parentage in issue, and thereby unwarrantably impugns the whole basis upon which Ganikamma and the children have conducted their lives as a family.

86. I accordingly conclude that the Home Secretary’s stance on this issue is unjustified and totally without merit. In this regard I do not rely upon the presumption of legitimacy. Deelavathi’s parentage has been proved by overwhelming evidence and without the need to rely upon any presumption.

We’ve seen some strong criticism in the past but I cannot recall anything quite so powerful as this. The judgment emphasises that DNA evidence need not necessarily be from one of the DNA test centres preferred by the Home Office and that there is no prescribed, mandatory evidence for proving nationality.

Adrian’s conclusion is worth repeating:

Around the world there are millions of British citizens by descent, many of whom may struggle to prove their citizenship and secure passports, protection and assistance from UK officials where needed. This judgment shows the benefits of persevering.

Colin Yeo
Colin Yeo A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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