Citizenship : Part II (Articles 5-11)
In India, we have the provision of Single Citizenship i.e., Citizenship of India. The Concept of dual citizenship (i.e., citizenship of the country as well as citizenship of the state) does not apply in our Country. We are citizens of India and not citizens of (Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Naidu and Kerela etc.).
Only our parliament have the power to make laws regarding citizenship. Fundamental Rights such as Right to Equality (Article 14), Right to Life & Freedom (Article 21), Right to Freedom of Religion (Article 25 to 28) are available to Foreigners (non citizens) too.
Along with Constitution of India, The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 is exhaustive law relating to citizenship in India.
Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas (Non Resident Indian Day) 9th January in India is celebrated as Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas to mark the Contribution of overseas Indian Community to the development of India. On 9th January 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India (Bombay) from South Africa.
NRI (Non Resident Indian) in a citizen of India who holds an Indian Passport and has temporarily emigrated to another Country for Six or more months for employment, residence, education, service or for any other purpose.
Person of Indian Origin (POI) is a person of Indian origin but is not a citizen of India rather it citizen of another country.
Universal Adult Francise: means every Indian citizen has right to vote after attaining the age of 18 years irrespective of religion, caste, community, place of birth, language, economic status, education etc. Right to vote is a Constitutional Right available under Article 326 of the Constitution.
Ways to acquire Indian Citizenship:
(1) By Birth – Law of Soil (Jus Soli) Any baby born in Indian Territory can become Indian Citizen by Birth.
(2) By Descent – Law of Blood (Jus Sanguine) Any baby born outside Indian Territory but either of the parent of the baby is an Indian can become Indian Citizen by Descent.
(3) By Registration:
(a) Person of Indian origin after residing in India for 7 years or more can apply for Indian Citizenship by Registration.
(b) Any foreigner after marrying an India and after residing in India for seven years or more can apply for Indian Citizenship by Registration.
(c) Minor Children of Indian Citizens born outside Indian Territory can be granted Indian Citizenship by Registration.
(4) Naturalisation – Individuals who are not illegal immigrants can acquire Indian citizenship by Naturalisation after residing in India for 12 years. However after the recently passed CAA 2019, the duration of residency for naturalisation for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsis (Zoriastrian) & Christian facing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan & Bangladesh has been reduced to 5 years.
(5) By Incorporation of Territories - All residents of a foreign territory after its merger with Indian Union are awarded Indian Citizenship but we do not allow dual nationality or Citizenship. After acquiring Indian citizenship, they have to renounce their previous citizenship.
Termination of Indian Citizenship
(i) By Renunciation: If any Indian Voluntarily want to give up Indian Citizenship to acquire citizenship of another Country.
(ii) By Termination: It is by operation of law when an Indian citizen illegally acquires Citizenship of another Country.
(iii) By Deprivation: It is Compulsory termination of Citizenship of India obtained through false means by Registration or Naturalisation.
Union Home Ministry decides the issues of Citizenship.
THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT, 2019
Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Home Minister Amit Shah on 9th December, 2019, and was passed on 10th December, 2019.
The bill was subsequently passed by Rajya Sabha on 11th December 2019.
After getting assent of President on 12th December, 2019 the bill assumed the status of an Act and become Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The act has come into force on 10-01-2020.
This act amends Citizenship Act of 1955 to give Indian Citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis & Christians from Afganistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before 31st December, 2014. It also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 12 years to 5 years for these migrants. The Act excludes Muslims from such eligibility.
There is widespread political opposition and protests in North East India. Their Chief concern is that demography of North East will change with the influx of migrants from Bangladesh. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom criticised the bill and called for sanctions against Amit Shah and other principal leadership, Indian National Congress critised the bill stating it would lead to Communal tension and polarize India. Indian Union Muslim League petitioned the SC to declare the bill illegal. Some critics believe it legalises religious discrimination.
Amit Shah argued that 20% decline in religious minority population of both Bangladesh and Pakistan necessitated such a bill and Indian Muslim Community will not be affected by the bill. Again bill does not violate Article 14 as reasonable classification can be made by Union Government. Lakhs & Crores of People would benefit from the bill. Bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and Humanitarian values. This bill does not snatch the Indian citizenship of any person but awards Indian Citizenship to non Indians.
NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS (NRC)
NRC is a register of all Indian citizens to be created as per 2003 amendment of Indian Citizenship Act 1955. Its purpose is to list all the legal citizens of India so that illegal immigrants can be identified and deported. The final updated NRC for Assam published on 31 August 2019 spotted 19 Lakh persons out of the population of 3.3 Crore as illegal Migrants. It has been implemented in Assam starting 2013-14. GOI plans to implement it for the rest of Country in 2021.
Various Muslim organizations have been protesting against NRC, with the fear that upcoming compilation of NRC would be used by Modi Govt. to deprive Muslims of Indian Citizenship.
On 19 November, 2019, HM Amit Shah declared that NRC would be implemented throughout the country.
The Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 amended Indian Citizenship Act 1955 and made the following provisions:-
(i) Issue of national identity cards
(ii) Preparation of NRC
National Population Register (NPR)
NPR is a list of all the people residing in India and includes both citizens & non-citizen. NPR is a first step towards creation of NRC by verifying the citizenship status of every usual resident. Resident of a locality living there for at least six month with plans to continue their residence for another six months or more are included in the list of NPR. Every usual resident of India is required to register in NPR.
NRC can be created by using the data of NPR. The local officials would decide if the persons name will be added to NRC or not thereby deciding his citizenship status. Indian govt. will use this list to mark people as doubtful citizens after which they would be asked to prove their citizenship.
Various opposition groups especially Muslim groups have been apposing the exercise of NPR. Non BJP ruled states have various objections about NPR. Govt. of Kerala & West Bengal have already put the process on a temporary hold. Rajasthan, Maharashtra among others have objected to the inclusions of some question in process of NPR. e.g. when and where your parents were born, your mother tongue and where were you living in the past. States are suspicious about the intent of centre. The NPR will be plinth for building a National Register of citizens (NRC).
According to union govt. updating the NPR database is necessary for better policy framing, preventing leakages and ensuring those who need help are easier to identify. NPR indeed has been used by states who today are opposing NPR.
NPR database was built in 2010 and updated in 2015.
NPR database was built in Assam in 2019 as per 1985 Assam Accord. 1.9 million were prima facie rendered non citizens or aliens. Those left out however can challenge the decision before a tribunal and then before the court.
The plea of the Union govt. is that answers to all such questions are not mandatory but voluntary and no one is going to force anyone to reply any such question.