THE CITIZENSHIP ACT 1955 – Acquisition and Determination of Indian Citizenship
There are four ways in which Indian citizenship can be acquired: birth, descent, registration and naturalisation. The provisions are listed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- Every person born in India on or after 26.01.1950 but before 01.07.1987 is an Indian citizen irrespective of the nationality of his/her parents.
- Every person born in India between 01.07.1987 and 02.12.2004 is a citizen of India given either of his/her parents is a citizen of the country at the time of his/her birth.
- Every person born in India on or after 3.12.2004 is a citizen of the country given both his/her parents are Indians or at least one parent is a citizen and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of birth.
BY REGISTRATION: Citizenship can also be acquired by registration. Some of the mandatory rules are:
- A person of Indian origin who has been a resident of India for 7 years before applying for registration.
- A person of Indian origin who is a resident of any country outside undivided India.
- A person who is married to an Indian citizen and is ordinarily resident for 7 years before applying for registration.
- Minor children of persons who are citizens of India.
- A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950 is a citizen of India by descent if his/her father was a citizen of India by birth.
- A person born outside India on or after December 10, 1992, but before December 3, 2004 if either of his/her parent was a citizen of India by birth.
- If a person born outside India or or after December 3, 2004 has to acquire citizenship, his/her parents have to declare that the minor does not hold a passport of another country and his/her birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of birth.
- A person can acquire citizenship by naturalisation if he/she is ordinarily resident of India for 12 years (throughout 12 months preceding the date of application and 11 years in the aggregate) and fulfils all qualifications in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act.
- The Act does not provide for dual citizenship or dual nationality. It only allows citizenship for a person listed under the provisions above ie: by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation.
There are two well-known principles for the grant of citizenship:
- While ‘jus soli’ confers citizenship on the basis of place of birth, ‘jus sanguinis’ gives recognition to blood ties.
- From the time of the Motilal Nehru Committee (1928), the Indian leadership was in favour of the enlightened concept of jus soli.
- The racial idea of jus sanguinis was also rejected by the Constituent Assembly as it was against the Indian ethos.
- Citizenship is listed in the Union List under the Constitution and thus is under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament.
- The Constitution does not define the term ‘citizen’ but details of various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship are given in Part 2 (Articles 5 to 11).
- Unlike other provisions of the Constitution, which came into being on January 26, 1950, these articles were enforced on November 26, 1949 itself, when the Constitution was adopted.
Article 5: It provided for citizenship on commencement of the Constitution.
- All those domiciled and born in India were given citizenship.
- Even those who were domiciled but not born in India, but either of whose parents was born in India, were considered citizens.
- Anyone who had been an ordinary resident for more than five years, too, was entitled to apply for citizenship.
Article 6: It provided rights of citizenship of certain persons who have migrated to India from Pakistan.
- Since Independence was preceded by Partition and migration, Article 6 laid down that anyone who migrated to India before July 19, 1949, would automatically become an Indian citizen if either of his parents or grandparents was born in India.
- But those who entered India after this date needed to register themselves.
Article 7: Provided Rights of citizenship of certain migrants to Pakistan.
- Those who had migrated to Pakistan after March 1, 1947 but subsequently returned on resettlement permits were included within the citizenship net.
- The law was more sympathetic to those who migrated from Pakistan and called them refugees than to those who, in a state of confusion, were stranded in Pakistan or went there but decided to return soon.
Article 8: Provided Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
- Any Person of Indian Origin residing outside India who, or either of whose parents or grandparents, was born in India could register himself or herself as an Indian citizen with Indian Diplomatic Mission.
Article 9: Provided that if any person voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign State will no longer be a citizen of India.
Article10: It says that every person who is or is deemed to be a citizen of India under any of the foregoing provisions of this Part shall, subject to the provisions of any law that may be made by Parliament, continue to be such citizen.
Article 11: It empowers Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all matters relating to it.
WHO ARE ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds. A person may become an Indian citizen if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country for a period of time, etc. However, illegal migrants are prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship. An illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.
What is Citizenship Amendment Bill?
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019:
- It reduces the requirement for citizenship from 11 years to just 6 years.
- It seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.
- It seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians —after 6 years of stay in India even if they do not possess any proper document. The current requirement is 12 years of stay.
- The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
- The notifications also exempted these migrants from the Passport Act and Foreigners Act.
The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.
Need for the bill:
- There are thousands of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who have entered India after facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan without any valid document.
- All the reports clearly say that there is threat perception on the basis of what is perceived as an unfinished agenda.
- These refugees have been facing difficulty in getting Long Term Visa (LTV) or Citizenship
- The existing Citizenship law does not allow anyone granting Indian nationality if he or she can not show proof of documents on country of birth and therefore they have to stay at least 12 years in India.
- Those Hindus who are persecuted due to religion has no other place to go except India.
Issues surrounding the bill:
- It makes distinction on the basis of religion.
- The proposed amendment is, however, unprecedented, in the sense that never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as the ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens.
- Civil society groups are opposing the bill, terming it “communally motivated humanitarianism.”
- Since Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution.
- The Bill will stamp these countries as institutions of religious oppression and worsen bilateral ties.
- The proposed law not only provides citizenship rights to such refugees, but greatly relaxes the procedure to avail of them.
- Assam has a major problem regarding infiltration of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants. this bill does not consider Bangladeshi Hindus as illegal immigrants.
- The implicit consequence of such a law is that people only from the Muslim community in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be treated as illegal immigrants.
- Provides wide discretion to the government to cancel OCI registrations for both major offences like murder, as well as minor offences like parking in a no-parking zone or jumping a red light.
Legal fallacies of the proposed law:
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill also fails on the tenets of international refugee law.
- Although India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, granting refuge based on humanitarian considerations is arguably a norm of customary international law.
- Shelter to individuals of a select religion defeats not only the intention but also the rationality of refugee policy.
- Muslims are considerably discriminated against and exploited in the neighbouring countries of China, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. The 36,000 Rohingyas Muslims from Myanmar who fled to India in the wake of 2015 insurgency is just one such example.
- Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar are not offered such hospitality. The only way for them to live in India is by obtaining a valid visa and refugee status.
- Major Criticism is that minority groups from countries like:
Sri Lanka- Tamil Minority
Pakistan- Shia and Ahmediya has not been provided with any safeguard.