The Legal Hitch: Why Sonia Couldn’t Become the PM in 2004 Elections?

The Legal Hitch: Why Sonia Couldn’t Become the PM in 2004 Elections?

Believe it or not, it was not a pre-planned decision of the then party President Sonia Gandhi, to sacrifice the Prime Minister’s chair for Dr Manmohan Singh. It all started with a letter, a letter by Dr Subramanian Swamy to the then President Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

In an interview, Subramanian Swamy unfolded what he had written in the letter and what was the “legal hitch” that stopped Sonia from becoming the Prime Minister of India. The legal bar was put because of a ‘reciprocity’ proviso to Section 5 of the Citizenship Act (now amended). Section 5 of the Act deals with citizenship by registration. The proviso (now amended) stated that any person, who is a citizen of another country, wishes to register as an Indian Citizen shall be subjected to the same provisions, which an Indian Citizen would be subjected to, under the citizenship laws of that country.

Under Italian law, a person not born in Italy cannot become the Prime Minister of Italy. Therefore, since Sonia Gandhi was not born in India she could not become the Prime Minister of India. This was the legal hitch which he impressed in his letter. He also stated if an appropriate order was not issued, he would challenge the candidacy of Sonia Gandhi in the Apex Court.

This letter was sent on 14th November 2004, the day when results of the election came. For a few days, no response was received from the President’s, the Rashtrapati Bhavan. At 12:30 PM, on the day when Sonia Gandhi was invited by the President to state her claim to become the Prime Minister, Swamy received a phone call from the office of President, whereby he was asked to meet with the President within 15 minutes.  After reaching the office, he was asked by President Kalam himself to explain the legal conundrum which he had put forth in the letter. On the question of the constitutionality of the proviso, he stated two judgments where the proviso had been upheld.

At 3:30 PM APJ Kalam wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi which was delivered to her by hand. In the letter, he stated that he had received a complaint from Dr Subramanian Swamy regarding her candidacy and since he is not sure of the merit of the complaint, it had to be referred to the Election Commision and till then, she could not be granted to take the oath of PM’s Office. The impact of the letter was, Dr Manmohan Singh was then made the Prime Minister of India.

Delhi-based activist Subhash Agrawal filed an RTI application with the president’s secretariat seeking detailed information along with documents and correspondence relating to the formation of the central government when Dr Singh was appointed as the Prime Minister for the first time in the year 2004. In its reply, dated 26th April 2012, the secretariat said that, “Letter written by Dr Subramanian Swamy, president, Janata Party to the president was inter alia, a communication sent in confidence by him to the president, based on which the president exercised his/her discretion to appoint the prime minister under Article 75.” [MoneyLife]

(Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is given only to provide helpful information and understanding on the subject/topic of law discussed. The contents of this article are not the views of Amie Legal and Amie Legal does not take any responsibility or liability for the opinions expressed by the Author herein.)


APJ Abdul Kalam
Congress Party
Dr Manmohan Singh
Sonia Gandhi
Subramanian Swamy
UPA Government

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