Indian nationality law

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The Citizenship Act, 1955
Emblem of India.svg
Parliament of India
CitationAct No 57 of 1955
Enacted byParliament of India
Assented to30 December 1955
Amended by
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986,
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1992,
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003,
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005, and
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
Summary
Along with the Constitution of India, the Citizenship Act, 1955, is the exhaustive law relating to citizenship in India.

The conferment of a person as a citizen of India is governed by the Part II of the Constitution of India (Articles 5 to 11). According to Article 5, all the people that were resident in India at the commencement of the Constitution were citizens of India as well as people born in India. The President of India is termed the First Citizen of India.

The Indian legislation related to this matter is The Citizenship Act, 1955, which has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Acts of 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019. The 1986 amendment restricted citizenship by birth to require that at least one parent had to be an Indian citizen. The 2003 amendment further restricted that aspect by requiring that a parent could not be an illegal immigrant. The 2003 amendment also mandated the Government of India to construct a National Register of Citizens. The 2019 amendment provided an easier path to citizenship for minorities persecuted on the basis of religion, i.e Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsi and Christians from the neighbouring Muslim-majority countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 2014. These two measures have given rise to large-scale protests in India in 2019.

Article 9 of Indian Constitution says that a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen. Also, according to The Passports Act, a person has to surrender his/her Indian passport and voter card, and other Indian ID cards must not be used after another country's citizenship is obtained. It is a punishable offence if the person fails to surrender the passport.

The current Indian nationality law largely follows the jus sanguinis (citizenship by descent) as opposed to the jus soli (citizenship by right of birth within the territory).[1]

History[edit | edit source]

British Raj[edit | edit source]

The Government of India Act 1858 established the British Raj and formally brought the majority of Indians under British imperial rule. Indians under the British Raj generally fell into two categories:

Effective from 15 August 1947, India was established as the independent Dominion of India. All Indians resident, born in or naturalised in the Indian provinces legally remained British subjects by virtue of Section 18(3) of the Indian Independence Act 1947. Indians residents in the princely states that acceded to India were also regarded as British subjects, while those resident in British protectorates retained the status of British protected persons.[3][note 2]

Territorial acquisitions[edit | edit source]

On 20 December 1961, after military action, India acquired the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli which were under the territories of Portugal. The French territories of Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahé, and Yanam, were acquired under treaty of cession with France in 1954 (ratified by the French National Assembly in 1962). Previously, the French territory of Chandernagore had voted in a referendum to join the Indian Union in 1949.[4] Sikkim was also merged with India and became a constituent state with effect from 16 May 1975. Some of the enclaves in the eastern part of India were also acquired under border agreements with Pakistan and Bangladesh.[5]

In order to expressly provide the citizenship for people in territories as mentioned above, the central government issued the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1962, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Citizenship) Order, 1962 and Citizenship (Pondicherry) Order 1962, in exercise of its powers under section 7 of the Citizenship act and for Sikkim, the President extended the Citizenship act, and the relevant rules under Article 371-F(n) of Indian Constitution. In case of acquired enclaves, that did not necessitate legislative action, as that was only a border demarcation agreement.[5]

Granting of citizenship[edit | edit source]

Cover of an Indian passport

Citizenship at the commencement of the Constitution of India[edit | edit source]

People living in the territory of India as on 26 November 1949 automatically became Indian citizens through operation of the relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution coming into force, and most of these constitutional provisions came into force on 26 January 1950. The Constitution of India also made provision regarding citizenship for migrants from the territories of Pakistan which had been part of India before partition.

Citizenship by birth[edit | edit source]

Any person born in India on or after 26 January 1950, but prior to the commencement of the 1986 Act on 1 July 1987, is a citizen of India by birth. A person born in India on or after 1 July 1987 but before 3 December 2004 is a citizen of India if one of the parents was a citizen of India at the time of the birth.[6] Those born in India on or after 3 December 2004 are considered citizens of India only if both of their parents are citizens of India or if one parent is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of their birth. In September 2013, the Bombay High Court gave a judgement that a birth certificate, passport or even an Aadhaar card alone may not be enough to prove Indian citizenship, unless the parents are Indian citizens.[7]

In a 2012 case, the Bombay High Court ruled that a man who was born in Pakistani-administered Kashmir and entered into India was an Indian citizen and should be granted an Indian passport, since India considers all of the Kashmir region to fall within its borders.[8]

Citizenship by Descent[edit | edit source]

Persons born outside India on or after 26 January 1950 but before 10 December 1992 are citizens of India by descent if their father was a citizen of India at the time of their birth.

Persons born outside India on or after 10 December 1992 are considered citizens of India if either of their parents is a citizen of India at the time of their birth.

From 3 December 2004 onwards, persons born outside of India shall not be considered citizens of India unless their birth is registered at an Indian diplomatic mission within one year of the date of birth. In certain circumstances it is possible to register after one year with the permission of the Central Government. The application for registration of the birth of a child must be made to an Indian diplomatic mission and must be accompanied by an undertaking in writing from the parents of the child that he or she does not hold the passport of another country.[9]

Citizenship by registration[edit | edit source]

The Central Government may, on an application, register as a citizen of India under section 5 of the Citizenship Act 1955 any person (not being an illegal migrant) if s/he belongs to any of the following categories:

  • a person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making application under Section 5(1)(a) (throughout the period of twelve months immediately before making application and for six years in the aggregate in the eight years preceding the 12 months).
  • a person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in any country or place outside undivided India;
  • a person who is married to a citizen of India and is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration;
  • minor children of persons who are citizens of India;
  • a person of full age and capacity whose parents are registered as citizens of India.
  • a person of full age and capacity who, or either of his parents, was earlier citizen of independent India, and has been residing in India for one year immediately before making an application for registration;
  • a person of full age and capacity who has been registered as an Overseas Citizen of India for five years, and who has been residing in India for one year before making an application for registration.

Citizenship by naturalisation[edit | edit source]

Citizenship of India by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner who is ordinarily resident in India for 12 years (throughout the period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of application and for 11 years in the aggregate of 14 years preceding the 12 months) and other qualifications as specified in Section 6(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Citizenship by naturalisation[edit | edit source]

Citizenship of India by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner who is ordinarily resident in India for 12 years (throughout the period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of application and for 11 years in the aggregate of 14 years preceding the 12 months) and other qualifications as specified in Section 6(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

List of Amendments[edit | edit source]

  1. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1957
  2. Repealing and Amending Act, 1960
  3. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985
  4. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986
  5. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1992
  6. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003
  7. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2006
  8. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015
  9. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The 1986 amendment, legislated after the Assam agitation and Assam Accord, restricted citizenship by birth to children born of Indian citizens. At least one parent had to be an Indian citizen for the child to qualify for citizenship. This was a serious restriction of the jus soli principle adopted in the Constitution and the original Citizenship Act.

The 2003 amendment further restricted the jus soli principle by requiring that no parent of the child can be an illegal immigrant for the child to qualify for citizenship. It also ruled that illegal immigrants are not eligible for acquiring citizenship by registration or naturalisation.

The 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act provides for a path to citizenship for religiously persecuted minorities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who faced "persecution or fear of persecution" in their countries and entered India on or before 31 December 2014.[10] The Act was passed by both the houses of Parliament by 11 December 2019.[11] It faced widespread criticism and protests on the grounds that it is discriminatory by omitting Muslims, and for violating the Assam Accord which promised 1971 as the cut-off date for the illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Renunciation and termination of Indian citizenship[edit | edit source]

Renunciation is covered in Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955. If an adult makes a declaration of renunciation of Indian citizenship, s/he loses Indian citizenship. In addition, any minor child of that person also loses Indian citizenship from the date of renunciation. When the child reaches the age of 18, he or she has the right to have his or her Indian citizenship restored. The provisions for making a declaration of renunciation under Indian citizenship law require that the person making the declaration be "of full age and capacity".

Termination is covered in Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The provisions for termination are separate and distinct from the provisions for making a declaration of renunciation.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "As Trump strikes at birthright citizenship, Americans – and Indians – look up 14th Amendment - Times of India". The Times of India.
  2. legislation.gov.uk: "British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914" (original as printed)
  3. "The Gazette of India - Extraordinary" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2017.: "The expression 'British subjects' shall be deemed to include the Ruler and subjects of any of the Acceding States."
  4. Namakkal, Jessica (3 April 2017). "The Terror of Decolonization: Exploring French India's "Goonda Raj"". Interventions. 19 (3): 338–357. doi:10.1080/1369801X.2016.1231586. ISSN 1369-801X. S2CID 159485206.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Agrawala, S. K.; Koteswara Rao, M. (1990). "Nationality and International Law in Indian Perspective". In Swan Sik Ko (ed.). Nationality and International Law in Asian Perspective - Google Books. ISBN 9780792308768.
  6. Foreigners division, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. "Acquisition of Indian citizenship". Retrieved 26 September 2019.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. "Passport alone no proof of citizenship: Bombay HC". Times of India. 29 October 2013. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  8. Ahmed, Zubair (6 August 2012). "Indian passport for Kashmiri man". BBC. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  9. "Acquisition of Indian Citizenship (IC)". Government of India - Ministry of Home Affairs - Foreigners Division. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  10. "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019" (PDF). PRS India. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  11. "Lok Sabha live: Citizenship Bill to be tabled in Rajya Sabha next". The Times of India. Retrieved 10 December 2019.


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