London: In an 11th hour hitch, a 56-year-old Indian woman in Italy has been barred from gaining citizenship by a mayor who said her language skills are not good.
Puspha Rani was blocked from citizenship by the mayor of Cairate, in northern Italy, who stopped her from swearing the oath of allegiance by arguing her Italian was not good enough.
The oath was to be Rani's last step towards gaining citizenship, after getting all the necessary approval from the Italian authorities.
Mayor Paolo Mazzucchelli, from the anti-immigration Northern League party, instead advised her to take a language course.
Rani has lived in Italy for 15 years and said she struggles with learning the country's language.
"I've already been a number of times to ask to swear the oath, but I wasn't allowed. Now I've spent two months in an Italian school, and my language skills are getting better," she was quoted as saying by The Local.
Rani now has until Sunday to swear the oath of allegiance, after which her citizenship application will be void, the paper quoted Italian media.
Her lawyer accused Mazzucchelli of failing to perform his official duties and said the case would be taken to court if Puspha was not allowed to swear the oath imminently.
Rani's husband Kuman, who is already an Italian citizen, said he wanted his and his wife's "rights to be respected".
But Mazzucchelli said that there was "no discrimination" in his decision to block Puspha from citizenship, arguing that he performs weekly citizenship tests for people who speak Italian.
"A person that swears the oath to obtain Italian citizenship must know how to speak Italian. As foreseen in law, they must know how to read the constitution," Mazzucchelli said.
"Mrs Puspha was still not ready. I therefore suggested, during a friendly meeting in which her daughter and son-in-law were present, to enrol in an Italian course. If she is ready to recite the phrase in Italian, there?s no opposition on my part," he said.