Citizenship – Indian Polity

Citizenship – Indian Polity

This article deals with ‘Citizenship – Indian Polity.’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


Citizenship - Indian Polity

Some Fundamental Rights belong to citizens alone, such as

Rights available only to Indian Citizens only

Only (Indian) citizens can hold certain offices, such as​

  1. The President of India
  2. The Vice-President of India
  3. The Judges of the Supreme Court  
  4. The Judges of the High Court  
  5. The Governor of a State
  6. The Attorney General of India
  7. The Advocate General of the State
  8. Only citizens can vote in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections.
  9. Only citizens of India can become MLA and MP

However, apart from enjoying these exclusive rights, the citizens must also fulfil certain ​duties towards the Indian State (called the Fundamental Duties), e.g., paying taxes, respecting the national anthem and national anthem, defending the country, etc.

Different countries follow different principles for granting Citizenship of a country. These include

  1. Right of the Soil/Jus Soli: If a person was born in the territory (within the borders) of that country
  2. Right of Blood/Jus Sangunis: If one or both of his parents are citizens of that country.
  3. By Marriage: If a person is married to a person who is a citizen of that country.
  4. Naturalization: If a person obtains Citizenship by passing through the legal process of naturalization.

Presently, India follows the principle of the Right of Blood (with some caveats) and Naturalization for its Citizenship. However, the process has changed since independence. Initially, everyone born in the Indian territory was granted Citizenship, i.e. India followed the right of the land principle. But it was changed through the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 1986 when the condition was added that a person born in India could become a citizen only if one of the parents was an Indian citizen.

Note: In India, anybody who is a citizen of India, whether by birth or naturalized, can become President, but only a citizen by birth can become President in the USA.

Constitutional Provisions

Article 5 to 11 of Part II deals with Citizenship. It only identifies persons who will become citizens on January 26, 1950 and leaves it to Parliament to make laws relating to other matters of Citizenship. Consequently, the Parliament of India enacted the Citizenship Act 1955, which has been amended many times, subsequently in 1957, 1960, 1985, 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019.

Article 5 of Indian Constitution

Article 6 of Indian Constitution

Article 7 of Indian Constitution

Article 8 of Indian Constitution

Article 9 of Indian Constitution

Article 10 of Indian Constitution

Article 11 of Indian Constitution

Citizenship Act, 1955

The Parliament of India made this Act following the constitutional provisions.

It provides 5 ways of acquiring Indian Citizenship

1. By Birth

A person born in India

Indian Citizenship by Birth

2. By Descent

A person born outside India will be considered a Citizen of India by descent if

Indian Citizenship by Descent

3. By Registration

The registration process is applicable for those who have some Indian connection. The person should fulfil the following conditions.

  1. Person of Indian Origin who is ordinarily residing in India for 7 years ( i.e., 12 months ​immediately before making the application and 6 years in the aggregate in the 8 years preceding the 12 months)
  2. A person married to an Indian citizen & ordinarily residing here for 7 years.
  3. Minor children or children of the full capacity of persons who are Indian citizens
  4. A person registered as OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) for 5 years and residing for ONE YEAR in India before making the application.

Individuals falling into the groups mentioned above must take an oath of allegiance before being officially recognized as Indian citizens.

4. By Naturalisation

Indian Citizenship, through the process of naturalization, can be acquired by a foreigner (not an illegal migrant), and he/she must follow all the conditions given below:-

  • Must not be a citizen of the country where Indian citizens are barred from becoming citizens.
  • Must renounce previous Citizenship.
  • A person must be ordinarily resident of India for 12 years (i.e., twelve months ​immediately before making an application and Eleven years in the aggregate in the twelve years ​ preceding the twelve months).
  • Must have knowledge of at least one language specified in Schedule 8.
  • Such a person should intend to reside in India or continue to work for the Government of India.

Furtherthe Government of India may waive all or any of the above conditions for naturalization if, in its opinion, the person has rendered distinguished services in the field of science, art, philosophy, world peace, literature, or human progress.

5. By Incorporation of Territory

  • If foreign territory becomes part of India in future. In that case, the Government of India may specify the residents of the territory to be citizens of India by orders notified in the Official Gazette.
  • E.g., When Pondicherry was acquired by India & the Government of India issued the Citizenship (Pondicherry) Order, 1962, under the Indian Citizenship Act,1955.

Loss of Citizenship

The Citizenship Act 1955 prescribes three ways for it

1. Renunciation

  • A citizen of full capacity can make a declaration renouncing his Citizenship.
  • It must be noted that when a person renounces his Citizenship, their minor children cease to be citizens of India. But such children may make a declaration one year after attaining the age of 18 years that they wish to resume Indian Citizenship.

2. Termination

  • When a citizen voluntarily accepts Citizenship of another country.
  • However, the provision of termination doesn’t apply when India is engaged in any war.

3. Deprivation

Compulsory termination of Indian Citizenship by the government when

  • Citizenship is obtained by fraud.
  • Citizen has shown disloyalty towards the constitution.
  • Citizen has unlawfully traded with the enemy country during the war.
  • Citizens within 5 years after registration or naturalization have been imprisoned for two years in any country.
  • The citizen has been ordinarily out of the country for 7 years.

Single Citizenship

  • In India, there is single Citizenship, i.e. all the persons are citizens of India, and there is no citizenship of state (unlike the USA)
  • All the citizens owe allegiance to India and not to any particular state.

Side Topic: Concept of Dual Citizenship

  • Dual Citizenship means a person can be a citizen of two or more countries simultaneously. Dual citizens have two passports and can live, travel and work in both countries, i.e. their native and the naturalized country.
  • Some countries do allow dual Citizenship. However, the Indian constitution doesn’t allow Dual Citizenship. 

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • Initially, India did not allow any rights to people of Indian origin who are residents of other countries. However, the High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora, under the Chairmanship of LM Singhvi, recommended the Person of Indian Origin Card (PIO) Scheme and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) for establishing a constructive relationship with the Indian diaspora. Subsequently, the Indian Parliament amended the Citizenship Act in 2002 and provided two special statuses, i.e. Person of Indian Origin Card (PIO) Scheme and Overseas Citizenship of India. These schemes were later merged into “Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder.” 
  • Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a person who, or any of their ancestors, were Indian nationals and presently holding another country’s Citizenship and passport (other than Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Benefits available for OCI

  • Facilitate visa-free travel to India.
  • Rights of residency in India.
  • Rights regarding participation in business and educational activities in the country

However, such persons shall not have the following rights as given to Citizens of India, which include

  • Right to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
  • Eligibility for election as President of India, Vice President of India, Member of the Lok Sabha, Member of Rajya Sabha, Member of State Legislative Assemblies or Councils
  • Eligibility for appointment as a Supreme Court Judge and High Court Judge

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