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Court of Appeal dismisses appeal on interpretation of nationality law


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The Court of Appeal has agreed with the High Court and dismissed an appeal on a point of statutory interpretation regarding when the right of abode was acquired through a person’s parent. The case is Indran Murugason, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] EWCA Civ 1336.


The appellant’s father was born in Penang, Malaysia on 31 December 1948. As detailed in AL and Other Malasia BOCs) Malaysia [2009] UKAIT 00026, Penang was previously part of a British colony and so under the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, residents of Penang were British subjects. The appellant’s father was therefore born a British subject. The day after he was born, the British Nationality Act 1949 came into force, converting his status into that of a “citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” (“CUKC”).

When Malaysia became independent on 31 August 1957, residents of Penang and Malacca who were CUKCs were allowed to retain that status in addition to their new Malaysian nationality. The appellant was born on 13 October 1972 as a CUKC, as this status could be passed down one generation, subject to exceptions.

Shortly after the appellant’s birth, the Immigration Act 1971 came into force, containing restrictions on the right of abode for CUKCs. Those CUKCs who did have a right of abode became British citizens on commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981.

The appellant applied for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode in the UK and this was refused on 14 September 2020. A reconsideration request was unsuccessful and a judicial review followed. That was settled by consent as the Home Secretary agreed to reconsider the decision. Another refusal was issued on 11 October 2021. A second judicial review was lodged in December 2021 and permission granted in July 2022. A substantive hearing took place in December 2022 and that decision was covered by us here.

The case centered on section 2(1)(b)(i) of the 1971 Act which provides for a right of abode for those born to a CUKC parent who “had that citizenship by his birth, adoption, naturalisation or (except as mentioned below) registration in the United Kingdom or in any of the Islands”. The appellant argued that the words “in the United Kingdom or in any of the Islands” in section 2(1)(b)(i) apply only to “registration”, which would mean that he had the right of abode and therefore British citizenship. The Home Secretary argued that those words qualify all the options “birth, adoption, naturalisation or … registration”, i.e. that any of these things must have happened in the UK or Islands. The High Court agreed with the Home Secretary and dismissed the claim.


The Court of Appeal dismissed this appeal, holding that the decision of the High Court was correct and that the “interpretation favoured by the deputy judge is manifestly consistent with the clear intention of the statute to restrict the right of abode in the United Kingdom”. As Alex said in her coverage of the case at High Court level, this is not a particularly surprising outcome, not least because of the number of people who would have acquired the right of abode had the appellant been successful.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.