I don’t often write about Court decisions relating to British citizenship, but this one
Bondada and Secretary of State for the Home Department 2015
had some incendiary stuff in it. We all got fairly used, in the last two years, to Judges giving Chris Grayling a polite kicking, but Chris Grayling was… well, you don’t need me to tell you. This is a Judge giving Theresa May an impolite kicking. And Theresa May is a much more formidable opponent.
As will be seen, however, the stance taken on behalf of the Home Secretary on other occasions during the period from early December 2012 onwards, and throughout these proceedings, is a stance which cannot be described as honourable. From early December 2012 onwards, both before and after the letter of 29 August 2013, untenable objections were taken to Deelavathi’s claim. The stance taken in those objections refused to engage with compelling DNA evidence. The result was that this stance effectively made an accusation that Deelavathi’s mother has lied about the parentage of her children for more than 60 years. At a very late stage in the present proceedings the Home Secretary accepted the DNA evidence. Nevertheless the stance taken on behalf of the Home Secretary when rejecting Deelavathi’s claim has, without a shred of evidence to support it, continued to make the same effective accusation. The conduct of the UK government in this regard has been grotesque. I add that in making these observations I do not criticise Ms Parry and I do not criticise the legal team in the Government Legal Department. They have approached their task with all such professional courtesy as is consistent with seeking to defend an impossible position.
Even against the backdrop of Chris Grayling and all those judgments against him, I don’t think that I have ever seen a High Court Judge use such strong language about a sitting Government minister. This Judge is Walker J, not someone I’ve previously encountered. I like him.
Ms Deelavathi Bondada is the daughter of Mr Chandraiah Bondada. He had British citizenship and had it at the time of her birth. He was married to her mother, and he was married at the time of her birth.
The Home Office, during the course of the litigation were alleging that that she was not his daughter and that she might have been an illegitimate product of an affair and thus couldn’t rely on her father’s British citzenship to establish her own.
When she produced DNA evidence that she and her siblings shared the same father, and that her mother is the mother of all five children (it not being possible to take a DNA sample from her father, who was deceased), the Home Office instead of accepting the utterly obvious and inevitable, instead suggested that all five children had a father who wasn’t Mr Chandraiah Bondada, and that the children’s mother had had an affair with another man and fathered FIVE children with him, whilst being married to Mr Bondada and lying to him.
If you find it abhorrent that our Government made such an assertion without any evidence to support that, then you will probably agree with the Judge’s views
- The November 2011 Consular Department letter complained that the passport held by Chandraiah at the time of Deelavathi’s birth had not been submitted. It said in this regard:
… therefore we are unable to ascertain whether your parents were together at the time of conception or not …
- In this way UK government officials raised the possibility that Deelavathi might not be Chandraiah’s daughter. The family did not have the passport held by Chandraiah at the time of Deelavathi’s birth. The only copy that it had was of the initial pages only. This meant that they could not produce the rather limited evidence which the November 2011 Consular Department letter had sought. Accordingly the family decided to do better than had been sought, and to put the matter beyond doubt by obtaining DNA evidence.
- In my view the family did not need to do this. The Consular Department already had the evidence that it needed, for it had had since April 2009 the original of Ganikamma’s 1978 passport. If those dealing with the matter had studied that passport at any time between April 2009 and November 2011 they would have seen that their own predecessors had in October 1978 accepted that Chandraiah was Deelavathi’s father. No reason has ever been suggested for thinking that the British consular officials in October 1978 might have failed to carry out all appropriate checks. Accordingly, even without DNA evidence, I would have held on the balance of probabilities that the conclusion reached in October 1978 remained valid today.
- If there had been any reason to doubt this, however, the DNA analyses provide an overwhelming answer to any such doubt. At a very late stage in the proceedings the Home Secretary has conceded that these analyses show that Deelavathi is the daughter of Ganikamma, that Ganikamma is also the mother of Kurma, Kandeswara, Tata and Punyavathi, and that these siblings and Deelavathi have the same father.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Having said at the outset that I’d never seen a Judge use such strong language about a sitting Minister, at this point in the reading, I felt that he had gone a bit easy on her.
You will not be staggered to learn that the Judge ruled that this woman should have her British citizenship. As a fellow British citizen, and I can speak only for myself, I’d like to say “welcome to Britain, Ms Bondada. We aren’t all like Theresa May”