Entitlement to British Citizenship: Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 and British Nationality Act 1981

Entitlement to British Citizenship: Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 and British Nationality Act 1981


CategoryNews Author Zane Malik QC Date

The Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Coulson, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Lord Justice Edis) has handed down its judgment in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Tariq [2021] EWCA Civ 378.

The key issue before the Court was whether Mr Tariq, who is a British National (Overseas), was entitled to be registered as a British Citizen under section 4B of the British Nationality Act 1981. Mr Tariq was born in Pakistan and her mother was born in Hong Kong. They both held British National (Overseas) passports and relied on letters issued by the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham stating that their Pakistani citizenship was “cancelled” when they assumed British National (Overseas) passports. On that basis, Mr Tariq argued that he met the requirement in section 4B(2)(c) of the British Nationality Act 1981 which required him to show that he “has not after [19 March 2009] renounced, voluntarily relinquished or lost through action or inaction any citizenship or nationality”. He sought to reply on section 14 of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 which, subject to certain exceptions, prohibits dule citizenship.

Mr Tariq succeeded in the High Court where his Judicial Review claim of the Secretary of State’s refusal of his application for registration as a British citizen was granted. On the Secretary of State’s appeal, the Court of Appeal has held that the High Court erred in law in granting Mr Tariq’s Judicial Review claim. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the High Court:

(1) “failed to have regard to the well-established principle that the question of a person’s nationality is a de jure matter, i.e. to be determined by reference to the actual law of the state on the basis of expert evidence, not what agencies of the state may assert about that person’s nationality”;

(2) “wrongly treated the [Pakistani] Consulate letter as conclusive on the question, notwithstanding her acknowledgment that it was incorrect in law”; and

(3) misread section 19(2) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951, which permit the Pakistan government “to grant … a certificate certifying that a person is a citizen of Pakistan”, as opposed to permitting the grant of a certificate (or letter) that a person is not a citizen of Pakistan.

On the expert evidence about the citizenship law of Pakistan, the Court of Appeal has concluded that the letters issued by the Pakistani Consulate were mistaken and did not reflect the actual position in the domestic law of Pakistan. The Court of Appeal has held that Mr Tariq did not meet the requirement in section 4B(2)(c) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

The Court of Appeal has accordingly allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal.

Zane Malik QC appeared for the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

The Court of Appeal’s full judgment is available here


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