Citizenship constitutes the indispensable foundational principle of democratic polity. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a citizen means a person owing allegiance to and entitled to the protection of a sovereign state. Citizenship provides rights such as right to vote, and are also subjected to duties or obligation, such as paying taxes. Citizenship is covered in Part II of the constitution, within articles 5-11. It took an enormous amounts of drafts and took two years to be finalized.
Article 5-8 conferred citizenship on each person who met the criteria below at the commencement of the Constitution:
- Domiciled in India and born in India
- domiciled not born in India but either of whose parents was born in India
- domiciled, not born in India but ordinarily resident for more than five years
- resident in India but migrated to Pakistan after 1 March 1947 and later returned to India on resettlement permit
- resident in Pakistan but who migrated to India after 19 July 1948 or who came after that date but had resided for more than six months and got registered in prescribed manner
- resident outside India but who or either of whose parents or grandparents were born in India
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Thus, Citizenship at the commencement of the constitution included provisions for Citizenship-by domicile, of migrants from Pakistan and of Indians residing in foreign countries.
The Citizenship Act, 1955 that came into force with effect from 30th December 1955 deals with matters relating to the acquisition, determination and termination of Indian citizenship. It provides for the acquisition of Indian citizenship by birth, by descent, by registration and by naturalization. The act has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1992, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2003, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005.
The Original Act provided:
- a person born in India after 26 January 1950 would, subject to certain exceptions be a citizen of India by Birth
- anyone born outside India after 26 January 1950, subject to certain requirements, would be a citizen of India if his/her father was an Indian citizen at the time of his/her birth
- under certain conditions, certain category of persons could acquire Indian citizenship by registration in prescribed manner
- foreigners could acquire Indian citizenship on application for naturalization on certain conditions
- if any territory became part of India, the Government of India could by order specify the persons who would become citizens of India as a result thereof
- citizenship could be lost by termination, renunciation or deprivation on certain grounds
- a citizen of commonwealth country would have the status of commonwealth citizen of India. Government could make suitable provisions on the basis of reciprocity.