A citizen is a person who enjoys full membership of the community or State in which he lives or ordinarily lives. Citizens are different from aliens, who do not enjoy all the rights which are essential for full membership of a state.
Part II of the Constitution simply describes classes of persons living in India at the commencement of the Constitution, i.e. 26th January 1950, and leaves the entire law of the citizenship to be regulated by legislations made by the Parliament. In exercise of its power, the Parliament has enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, which was subsequently amended in 1986.
The Act provides for the acquisition of Indian citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution in five ways, i.e. birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and incorporation of territory.
1. By birth- Every person born in India on or after Jan 26, 1950, shall be a citizen of India by the law of soil (Jus Soli), provided either or both of his/her parents are citizens of India at the time of his/her birth. But this law does not apply where his/her father is a diplomat of any other country or is an enemy alien at the time of his/her birth.
2. By descent- Broadly, a person bomb outside India on or after January 26, 1950, is a citizen of India by descent if his/her father is a citizen of India at the time of that person’s birth i.e. the law of blood (Jus Sanguine).
3. By registration- Any person who is not a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution or any of the provisions of the Citizenship Act may acquire citizenship by applying for registration for such a purpose. However, he/she should have lived in India for at least 5 years, for not less than 90 days a year, immediately before making such an application.
4. By naturalisation- A foreigner can acquire citizenship of India by applying for such before a competent authority provided, he/ she had lived in India for at least 10 years.
5. By incorporation of territories- If any new territory becomes a part of India, after a popular verdict, the Government of India may notify the person of that territory to be citizens of India.
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Termination of citizenship
The Citizenship Act, 1955 also lays down three modes by which an Indian citizen may lose his/her citizenship. These are renunciation, termination and deprivation.
A renunciation is a voluntary act by which a person, after acquiring the citizenship of another country, gives up his Indian citizenship. This provision is subject to certain conditions.
Termination takes place by operation of law when an Indian citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country. He automatically ceases to be an Indian citizen.
Deprivation is a compulsory termination of the citizenship of India obtained by Registration or Naturalisation, by the Government of India, on charges of using fraudulent means to acquire citizenship.
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The Indian Constitution, under Art. 11, gives power to the Indian Parliament to legislate on citizenship matters. Accordingly, Parliament enacted the Citizenship Act in 1955. Art. 9 says that citizenship means full citizenship. The
Constitution does not recognise divided allegiance. Section 10 of the Citizenship Act says that a person cannot have allegiance to the Indian Constitution as well as to the Constitution of another country. The Indian courts have consistently ruled against dual citizenship.
If an Indian citizen acquires citizenship of another country, he loses the Indian citizenship. For example, if a child of parents who are citizens of India, is born in another country and does not renounce the citizenship of that country on
attainment of adulthood, he/she loses the Indian citizenship.
The reason for the denial of dual citizenship is that citizenship entails certain duties like serving in the army if the need be.
Rights not available to Aliens
1. right not to be discriminated against on grounds of race, caste, religion, sex or place of birth (Art. 15)
2. right to equality of opportunity in public employment (Art. 16)
3. right to six fundamental freedoms under Art. 1 9.
4. right of suffrage
5. cultural and educational rights conferred by Arts. 29 &30.
6. rights to hold certain offices-President, Vice-President, Governor of States, Judges of Supreme Court or High Courts, Attorney General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General, etc.
7. right to contest the election and get elected to either House at the Centre or State level.
Can a person not born in India, but having acquired citizenship by registration or otherwise, become the Prime Minister of India?
The likelihood of the President of Indian National Congress (Indira), Mrs Sonia Gandhi, becoming the Prime Minister of India after being elected to the 13th Lok Sabha generated a controversy whether a person who becomes a citizen of
India either by registration or naturalisation should occupy, what effectively is, the highest position in the country. The Constitutional position is as follows:
Art. 14 guarantees equality before law Arts. 15 and 16 prohibit discrimination and commit the government to equality of opportunity.
Art. 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of Government employment and appointment.
The Constitution does not differentiate between an ordinary and a naturalised citizen as far as eligibility to contest for the Lok Sabha seat is concerned and thereafter, any member is constitutionally entitled to become the Prime Minister provided the requisite support in Lok Sabha is available.
Therefore, the India Constitution does not bar a naturalised citizen from becoming a Prime Minister. However, in the US, the Constitution permits naturalised citizens to become members of the Senate only (Federal House) but not the President.
Moreover, naturalised citizens can hold any high post other than that of President in the US. This defies logic. For example, the former Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, is a naturalised US citizen. She had been invited to head the government of her native country. Some experts cite internal security as a reason for such a law in the USA. If this is the reason, the Secretary of State can also pose a threat to the internal security. This shows that there is no sound reason behind the exclusion of a naturalised citizen from becoming the President of the USA. So, we should not try to cite the faulty law in the US Constitution for opposing Sonia Gandhi from becoming the Prime Minister of India. But whether she has the necessary competence to hold the top job of our country is another question altogether.