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Citizenship Act Since its Inception


Citizenship may be defined as the relationship between a State and an individual who is subject to loyalty towards state and in return they are entitled to protection by the state. Being a citizen of a country, one is entitled to rights, liberties and duties which are otherwise denied or may be partially extended to the aliens. Citizenship is a term used in international law to denote all persons whom a state should protect.

There are two important methods for the grant of citizenship: 
  1. jus Soli—Citizenship is acquired by birth within the territory of state, regardless of parental citizenship
  2. Jus Sanguinis— A legal system in which the citizenship is determined by our parents’ nationalities rather than where we were born.

Citizenship in India has become one of the most talked about topics in the recent past. The recent amendment to Citizenship Act, 1955 in 2019 has slurred up the issue of citizenship when the Supreme Court in August 2019, rejected a plea to include those born in India between 24 March, 1971 to 1 July 1987 in the national Register of Citizens unless they had ancestral links to India. This because, in Assam the law is different from other Indian state as in other Indian state, they would have been Indian citizens by birth.

History: The NRC 1951 and CA, 1955

The first National Register of Citizens was prepared in 1951 after the census was conducted on 1951. It showcased the houses or holdings in each villages in a sequential manner which indicated each house or holdings, the number of persons staying there and their names. Accordingly, the Electoral Roll was prepared in 1971(till the midnight of March 24, 1971). The NRC, 1951 and the Electoral Roll of 1971 taken together are called Legacy Data. Any individual and their ancestor whose names are found in these official papers are certified be the citizen of India. The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides a detailed guidelines for acquiring and determining citizenship.

Qualification Listed under the Citizenship Act, 1955

There are certain qualification listed in the CA, 1955 for an individual to have Indian citizenship. It provides from the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship.A person can acquire citizenship by:

  1. Birth
  2. By registration
  3. By Descent
  4. By Naturalization

A) Citizenship by birth 

Every person born in India on or after 26.01.1950 but before 01.07.1987 is a citizen of India  without considering his/her parents’ nationality.

Anyone born in India between 01.07.1987 and 02.12.2004 is an Indian citizen provided that either of his/her parents belongs to that country during 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.

B) Citizenship by Registration

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 resides in any country outside India (before partition) are eligible to apply.

A person who is married to an Indian citizen and is ordinarily resident for 7 years before applying for registration.

Even the children who is a minor of persons who are citizens of India are eligible to apply.

C) Citizenship by Descent

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 December10,1992, but before December3,2004 if either of his/her parent was a citizen of India by birth.

If a person born outside India on 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. 

D) Citizenship by Naturalization

A person can acquire citizenship by naturalization if he/she is ordinarily resident of India for 12 years and satisfies all criteria mentioned in the 3rd schedule of the Citizenship Act.  

The Act strictly prohibits dual citizenship. It only allows citizenship for a person listed under the  above provisions i.e.: by birth, descent, naturalization and registration.

Provision of Citizenship in Indian Constitution

Part II (Article 5-11) of the Indian constitution deals with Citizenship and it was enforced when the constitution was adopted in November 26, 1949. It is listed in the Union list and hence can be said that it is under the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

Article 5: It provided for Indian citizenship on commencement of the Constitution. It laid down:

All those were given citizenship who domiciled and were born in India. 

Persons who were not born in India but were domiciled and either of their parents was born in India, were also considered as citizens.

Anyone who had been living in India for more than five years was also elligible to apply for citizenship.

Article 6: Any person who has migrated from the territory now included in Pakistan to the territory of India will automatically qualify to be a citizen of India. Any individual who entered to India before19 July, 1949, shall become an Indian citizen automatically if either of his parents or grandparents was born in India. It is to be noted that whoever entered India after the mentioned date should register themselves.

Article 7: Rights of citizenship of certain migrants to Pakistan

A person who has after the first day of March, 1947, migrated to the territory now included in Pakistan from the territory of India is not liable to be an India citizen.

After March 1, 1947 if anyone had migrated to Pakistan but returned subsequently on resettlement permits were included within the citizenship net. 

The law was more lenient to those who came from Pakistan and called them refugees than to those who, were stranded in Pakistan or went to Pakistan because of confusion, but decided to return soon.

Article 8: It provided rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India. Any Person of Indian Origin who has been residing outside India who, or either of whose parents or grandparents, was born in India could register himself or herself as citizen of India with Indian Diplomatic Mission.

Article 9: If any person acquired the citizenship of a foreign State  voluntarily will no longer be a citizen of India.

Article10: Every person who is or is deemed to be a citizen of India under any of the preceding provisions of this Part will be subject to the provisions of any law that may be made by Parliament, continue to be such citizen.

Article 11: It states that Parliament can regulate the right of citizenship by law.

Amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955

The citizenship Act has been amended nine times in total of which amendments made in 1986, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019 are important to reflect. Through these amendments the principles of acquiring citizenship through birth has been narrowed down. In addition the Foreigner Act also has made it difficult for an individual to prove if he/she is a foreigner.

CAA, 1986: Grant of Citizenship on the basis of Jus Soli  to the ones born in India was made less inclusive through Section 3 of the amendment. It has added the condition that those who were born in India on or after January 26, 1950  but before 1st July, 1987 shall be the citizen of India. Those born between 1st July, 1987 and before December 4, 2003, apart from being born in India can become an Indian citizen only if either of his parents was an India citizen at the time of birth.

CAA, 2003: Due to increasing influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, this amendment made the above condition more strict. It lays down that for those born on or after 4 December, 2004, in addition to where they are born, both parents should be citizen of India or at least 1 parent must be an Indian citizen and other should not be an illegal migrant. It also highlights that an illegal migrant cannot claim citizenship by naturalisation or registration even if he has been a resident of India for 7 years.

These amendments shows that India is gradually moving towards the narrow principle of jus sanguines or blood relationship.

CAA, 2019:

There has been a lot of debates and resentments from various sections of the society regarding this amendment act. Some fo the major provision that has be laid out in this act are as follows:

It permits the members of 6 communities i.e. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Paris and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to continue to live in India if they entered India before 14 December 2014.

The requirement for citizenship has also been reduced from 11 to 6 years

There are 2 notifications which exempts these migrants from the Passport Act and Foreigners Act.

Issue in Assam

Many organizations, mostly in Assam were against this act as citizenship might be granted to Bangladeshi Hindu illegal migrants. This was justified by saying the Hindus and Buddhists are minorities in Bangladesh, and fled to India to keep away from religious persecution but similar thing cannot be said about Muslims as they are a majority in Bangladesh.

Assam have witnessed the influx of many illegal migrants entering from erstwhile Pakistan. There was huge protest against it popularly known as Assam movement between 1979-1985 for deporting illegal migrants. As a result of this Assam Accord was signed in 1985 that set up March 25, 1971 as the cut off date for deportation of illegal migrants. Amendments were made wherein new section 6(A) was introduced which is applicable only to Assam. But again this section has become a matter of contention as the constitutional validity of it by the Supreme Court is still pending. 


Citizenship has since its inception in 1955 has been a very contentious issue because of its stringent procedure to determine one’s citizenship. There are some people who supports CAA, 2019 and there are some who rejects the Act. Many argue that it is against the ideal of secularism as it is based on religion and does not fulfil the basic structure of the constitution. The decision to implement the CAA would make some of the people living in India for years, a non-citizen. The implementation of NRC in Assam has not been carried out properly as a result of which many people has been excluded from the final NRC list. If not resolved with adequate mechanism, it might give rise to communal violence not only in Assam but in the entire country.

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