India recognizes two sets of people – Citizens and Aliens.
Citizens are full members of the Indian State and owe allegiance to it. They enjoy all civil and political rights.
Aliens, on the other hand are the citizens of some other state and hence, do not enjoy all the civil and political rights.
Aliens can be further sub-classified as Friendly aliens and Enemy aliens.
Friendly aliens are citizens of a country which has friendly relations with India. Enemy aliens refer to citizens of that country which is at war with India.Though India is a federation having two levels of government, centre and the states, there is only single citizenship. Thus a citizen is only the citizen of India and not a citizen of any particular state.
The constitution deals with citizenship from Articles 5 to 11 under Part II. It broadly outlines brief provisions pertaining to acquisitions of citizenship. However, it has empowered the Parliament to enact a law to provide for matters relating to citizenship. Thus, was born the Citizenship Act of 1955 which was amended subsequently in 1986, 1992, 2003 and 2005.
I) Acquisition of Indian citizenship
The Citizenship Act of 1955 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship, viz, birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and incorporation of territory:
1. By Birth: A person born in India on or after 26th January 1950 but before 1st July 1987 is a citizen of India by birth irrespective of the nationality of his parents.
A person born in India on or after 1st July 1987 is considered as a citizen of India only if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth. Further, those born in India on or after 3rd December 2004 are considered citizens of India only if both of their parents are citizens of India or one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of their birth.
The children of foreign diplomats posted in India and enemy aliens cannot acquire Indian citizenship by birth.
2. By Descent: A person born outside India on or after 26th January 1950 but before 10th December 1992 is a citizen of India by descent, if his father was a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
A person born outside India on or after 10th December 1992 is considered as a citizen of India if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
From 3rd December 2004 onwards, a person born outside India shall not be a citizen of India by descent, unless his birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth or with the permission of the Central Government, after the expiry of the said period.
An application, for registration of the birth of a minor child, to an Indian consulate shall be accompanied by an undertaking in writing from the parents of such minor child that he or she does not hold the passport of another country.
3. By Registration: The Central Government may, on an application, register as a citizen of India any person (not being an illegal migrant) if he belongs to any of the following categories, namely:-
a. A person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration;
b. A person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in any country of place outside undivided India;
c. 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;
d. Minor children of persons who are citizens of India;
e. A Person of full age and capacity whose parents are registered as citizens of India;
f. 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;
g. 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 five years and who has been residing in India for one year before making an application for registration.
An applicant shall be deemed to be ordinarily resident in India if-
(i) He has resided in India throughout the period of twelve months immediately before making an application for registration; and
(ii) He has resided in India for a period of not less than six years out of the last eight years immediately preceding the said period of twelve months.
4. By Naturalisation: The Central Government may, on an application, grant a certificate of naturalisation to any person (not being an illegal migrant) if he possesses the following qualifications:
a. That he is not a subject or citizen of any country where citizens of India are prevented from becoming subjects or citizens of that country by naturalisation;
b. That if he is a citizen of any country, he undertakes to renounce the citizenship of that country in the event of his application for Indian citizenship being accepted;
c. That he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India or partly the one and partly the other, throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of the application;
d. That during the fourteen years immediately preceding said period of twelve months, he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India, or partly the one and partly the other, for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than eleven years.
e. That he is of good character;
f. That he has an adequate knowledge of a language specified in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and
g. That in the event of a certificate of naturalisation being granted to him, he intends to reside in India, or to enter into or continue in, service under a Government in India or under an international organisation of which India is a member or under a society, company or body of person established in India.
5. By Incorporation of Territories: If any territory becomes a part of India, the Government of India, by order, may specify those persons who shall be citizens of India by reason of their connection with that territory.
6. Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI): The Citizenship Act has been amended and it now offers dual citizenship to all those who migrated from the country after it became a Republic on January 26, 1950, provided their home countries allow them to do so.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2005 has made it possible for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) to acquire overseas citizenship.
Any Indian of full age, capacity, who is a citizen of another country and who was a citizen of India immediately before commencement or after the commencement of this Act, is eligible to obtain a certificate of registration as an Overseas Citizen.
Even minors of such Indians are eligible to obtain OCI status.
Benefits of OCI status include no VISA requirement for travel to India, facilities for availing housing loans, admission to educational institutions on par with NRIs.
It should be noted that Overseas Citizenship does not entitle a person to voting rights, fundamental rights exclusively available to Indian citizens. Further, they are not eligible for election to the post of President, Vice President, Judges or any other public service post.
Any person who has been at any time a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country that the Central Government may notify in future is not entitled to dual citizenship.
A person registered as Overseas citizen of India may be granted Indian citizenship after 5 years from date of registration provided he/she stays for one year in India before making application.
II) Loss of Citizenship
The Act envisages three situations under which a citizen of India may lose his Indian nationality. These are:
1. By Renunciation: If any citizen of India, who is also a national of another country, renounces his India citizenship through a declaration in the prescribed manner, he ceases to be an Indian citizen on registration of such declaration.
When a male person ceases to be a citizen of India, every minor child of his also ceases to be a citizen of India. However, such a child may within one year after attaining full age, become an Indian citizen by making a declaration of his intention to resume Indian citizenship.
2. By Termination: When an Indian citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, his Indian citizenship automatically terminates.
3. By Deprivation: The Central Government is empowered to deprive a citizen of his citizenship by issuing an order under section 10 of the Act.
But this power of the Government may not be used in case of every citizen; it applies only to those who have acquired Indian citizenship by naturalisation or by virtue of Clause (c) of Article 5 of the Constitution or by registration.
The possible grounds of such deprivation are: the obtaining of a citizenship certificate by means of fraud, false representation, concealment of any material fact, disloyalty or disaffection towards the Constitution shown by an act or speech; assisting an enemy with whom India is at war; sentenced to imprisonment in any country for a term of not less than two years within the first five years after the acquisition of Indian citizenship and continuously residing outside India for a period of seven years without expressing in prescribed manner his intention to retain his Indian citizenship.
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