‘Citizenship Act 1955’ and ‘Citizenship Bill(Amendment) 2016’

What is citizenship:

The state of being a member of a particular country and having rights because of it, is called citizenship.

About Indian citizenship:

  • The conferment of a person, as a citizen of India, is governed by Articles 5 to 11 (Part II) of the Constitution of India.
  • The President of India is termed the First Citizen of India.
  • India has single citizenship and there is no dual citizenship.
  • A citizen of India is a citizen of all Indian territories.

What is citizenship Act, 1955:

  • Legal provisions relating to acquisition and termination of citizenship of India are contained in the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The parliament enacted Citizenship Act 1955 which has been amended from time to time.
  • The citizenship (amendment) Act- 1985
  • The citizenship (amendment) Act -1992
  • The citizenship (amendment) Act – 2003
  • The citizenship (amendment) Act – 2005
  • This act (1955) mentions four ways in which a person may be Indian citizen viz. by birth, by descent, by registration and by naturalization.(1) Citizenship by ‘Birth’: A person born in India, is a citizen of India if:

    (2) Citizenship by ‘Descent’: A person born outside of India, is a citizen of India if:

    (3) Citizenship by ‘Registration’: (registering themselves with prescribed authority):

    Conditions:

    • A Persons of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before applying for registration.
    • A person of Indian origin residing outside the territories of undivided India.
    • A person married to an Indian citizen, resident in India for 7 years before

    applying for registration.

    • Children of Indian citizens.
    • An adult whose parents registered as citizens of India.
    • An adult either of whose parents was citizen of independent India and residing in India for last seven years. (from date of applying)

    An adult who has been registered as overseas citizen of India cardholder for 5 years and residing in India for previous 12 months before applying.

    (4) Citizenship by ‘Naturalization’:

    Conditions:

    • Citizenship of India can be acquired by a foreigner (not illegal migrant) if he-
    • is ordinarily resident in India for twelve years and
    • throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of application and
    • for eleven years in the aggregate in the Fourteen years preceding the twelve months.

     

    Example-

    Total residential period = 12 years

    Just before apply = 1 year

    Remaining = 11 years (out of 14 years except 1 year, mentioned above)

    • However, the Government of India may waive all/any above mentioned conditions if the person has provided distinguished service to Science, Philosophy, Art, Literature, World Peace or Human progress.

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Overseas citizens of India (OCI):

A foreigner may register as an OCI if:

  • He is of Indian origin (e.g. former citizen of India or their descendants) or,
  • The spouse of a person of Indian origin.
  • This will provide them the benefits such as-
  • the right to travel to India,
  • to work and
  • to study in the country.

An OCI’s registration may be cancelled if:

  • The OCI’s registration has proved fraud or
  • The OCI was sentenced to imprisonment for 2 or more years within 5 years of registration.

Citizenship act (amendment) 1986

  This amendment added the following provisions regarding Indian citizenship covered by Assam accord of 1985 (related to Assam accord). After this amendment, Indian citizenship may be got by persons of Indian origin who came to Assam from Bangladesh between:

who is illegal migrant: (according to foreigners Act,1946 and the passport act, 1920):  An illegal migrant are those foreigners who:

  • Enters into India without having valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or
  • Enters into India with valid documents but stays beyond the permitted time period.
  • Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported.

Provision in foreigners Act,1946 and the passport act, 1920:

  • In 2015 and 2016, the central government issued two notifications exempting certain groups from certain countries will not be deported or imprisoned being in India without valid documents. They are:

Citizenship Bill (amendment) 2016

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was proposed in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016 amending the Citizenship Act of 1955 and passed by LOK SABHA on 9th January 2019. If the bill is passed

  • It seeks to make illegal migrants belonging to the same six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship. (explained in the above table)
  • The bill allow cancellation of OCI (overseas citizens of India) registration if the person has violated any law.
  • It amends the act,1955 under ‘citizenship by naturalization’ which requires 11 years of residency in India of the applicant and relaxes this 11- year requirement to 6 years for the same six religions of three countries.

Problems with the bill:

  • This implies that illegal migrants from these countries who are Muslims, other minority groups like Jews or Atheists (who do not identify with a religious group) will not be eligible for citizenship.
  • This provision provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of their religion. Hence, it violates the law of ‘Right of Equality’, guaranteed under Article 14 of the constitution.
  • Cancellation of OCI cardholder’s registration for violation any law, is not clear as violation covers a wide range – from breaking a parking law to the murder case.

Why does Assam protest against the bill:

  • This bill contradicts the Assam accord of 1985 which states that migrants after 25th march, 1971 would be deported.
  • Assam has been facing the problem of illegal migrants especially migrants from Bangladesh since last many years.
  • People want such migrants to be deported.
  • The Assamese fear that illegal migrants from Bangladesh pose a threat to their cultural and linguistic identity.
  • Bengali and Assamese speaking Muslims of Assam are against of the proposal to offer citizenship to only non-Muslims migrants.

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