The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has observed that the principles of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act could be applied to Hindu Tamils who were forced to flee Sri Lanka, Live Law reported on Sunday.

The court was hearing a petition by a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, who has been living in India since her birth. Her parents, who were Sri Lankan citizens, had moved to India before her birth due to ethnic conflicts in the island country.

Abirami was born in Tiruchirapalli and she completed her school education in Tamil Nadu. She also holds an Aadhaar number. In in her petition, she has sought a direction to the Tiruchirapalli district collector to forward her application for Indian citizenship to the Tamil Nadu government, which could then send it to the Centre, according to Live Law.

Justice GR Swaminathan noted that Abirami had never been a Sri Lankan citizen, and so, the question of renouncing the island country’s citizenship did not arise. He also said that if her plea was not accepted, it would lead to her being rendered stateless.

The High Court directed the Tiruchirapalli collector to send her application to the Tamil Nadu government, and also told the state to forward it to the Centre. The court directed the Union government to decide on the matter within 16 weeks.

Justice Swaminathan noted that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act gives persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh an opportunity to get Indian citizenship. “Though Sri Lanka does not fall within the said amendment, the very same principle is equally applicable,” he said. “One can take judicial notice of the fact that the Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka were the primary victims of the racial strife.”

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act provides citizenship to refugees from six non-Muslim religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

The Act, however, is yet to be implemented as its rules have not been framed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the law will be enforced as soon as the pandemic ends.