IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


11th January, 2023 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

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  • A Constitution Bench led by the Chief Justice of India said that the court will check the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
    • Section 6A was a special provision inserted into the 1955 Act in the advancement of the ‘Assam Accord’ signed on August 15, 1985, by the then government with the leaders of the Assam Movement to preserve and protect the Assamese culture, heritage and linguistic and social identity.
    • Assam Accord ended the 6 ­year agitations of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) to identify and deport undocumented immigrants, mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh, from Assam.
  • Under Section 6A
    • Foreigners who had entered Assam before 1st January 1966, and been “ordinarily resident” in the State, would have all the rights and obligations of Indian citizens.
    • Foreigners who had entered the State between 1st January 1966, and 25th March 1971 would have the same rights and obligations except that they would not be able to vote for 10 years.
  • Petitions were filed challenging the “discriminatory” nature of Section 6A in granting citizenship to immigrants, illegal ones at that.
    • The petitioners argued that the special provision was in violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which fixed the cut-off date for granting citizenship to immigrants on July 19, 1948.

Indian Citizenship

  • The Constitution of India allows for only single citizenship, that is, Indian citizenship. There is no provision for separate state citizenship.
    • The other federal states like USA and Switzerland adopted the system of double citizenship.
    • In the USA, each person is not only a citizen of the USA but also of the particular state to which he belongs.
  • The system of single citizenship provided uniform rights (except in a few cases) for the people of India to promote the feeling of fraternity and unity among them and to build an integrated Indian nation.

Indian Constitution deals with citizenship from Articles 5 to 11 under Part II:

  • The original constitution only identifies the persons who became citizens of India at its commencement (i.e., on January 26, 1950).
    • It does not deal with the problem of acquisition or loss of citizenship after its commencement.
    • It empowers the Parliament to enact a law to provide for such matters and any other matter relating to citizenship.
    • Parliament has enacted the Citizenship Act (1955), which has been amended from time to time.
  • According to the Constitution, the following four categories of persons became the citizens of India at its commencement i.e., on January 26, 1950.
    • Persons domiciled in India.
    • Persons migrated from Pakistan.
    • Persons migrated to Pakistan but later returned.
    • Persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
  • The Citizenship Act (1955) provides for the acquisition and loss of citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution. 

Acquisition of Citizenship:

  • The Citizenship Act of 1955 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship, via, birth, descent, registration, naturalization and incorporation of territory.
  • By Birth - A person born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, is a citizen of India by birth irrespective of the nationality of his parents.
    • A person born in India on or after July 1, 1987, is considered a citizen of India only if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
    • Further, those born in India on or after December 3, 2004, are considered citizens of India only if both of their parents are citizens of India.
    • The children of foreign diplomats posted in India and enemy aliens cannot acquire Indian citizenship by birth.
  • By Descent - A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, but before December 10, 1992, is a citizen of India by descent; if his father was a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
    • A person born outside India on or after December 10, 1992, is considered a citizen of India if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
    • December 3, 2004, onwards, a person born outside India shall not be a citizen of India by descent, unless his birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth.
  • By Registration - Central Government may, on an application, register as a citizen of India any person if he belongs to any of the following categories, namely:-
    • A person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration.
    • A person who is married to a citizen of India and is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration.
    • Minor children of persons who are citizens of India.
  • By Naturalization - Central Government may, on an application, grant a certificate of naturalization to any person if he possesses the required qualifications, including adequate knowledge of a language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
    • The government of India may waive all or any of the above conditions for naturalization in the case of a person who has rendered distinguished service to science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress.
  • By Incorporation of Territory - If any foreign territory becomes a part of India, the Government of India specifies the persons who among the people of the territory shall be the citizens of India.
    • Such persons become citizens of India from the notified date.
    • For example, when Pondicherry became a part of India, the Government of India issued the Citizenship (Pondicherry) Order (1962), under the Citizenship Act (1955).
  • Every Registered and naturalized citizen must take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of India.

Loss of Citizenship:

  • The Citizenship Act (1955) prescribes three ways of losing citizenship whether acquired under the Act or before it under the Constitution, via, renunciation, termination and deprivation:
  • By Renunciation - Any citizen of India of full age and capacity can make a declaration renouncing his Indian citizenship.
    • When a person renounces his Indian citizenship, every minor child of that person also loses Indian citizenship.
    • However, when such a child attains the age of eighteen, he may resume Indian citizenship.
  • By Termination - When an Indian citizen voluntarily acquires citizenship of another country, his Indian citizenship automatically terminates.
    • This provision, however, does not apply during a war in which India is engaged.
  • By Deprivation - It is a compulsory termination of Indian citizenship by the Central Government:
    • If the citizen has obtained citizenship by fraud.
    • The citizen has shown disloyalty to the Constitution of India.
    • The citizen has unlawfully traded or communicated with the enemy during a war.
    • The citizen has, within five years after registration or naturalization, been imprisoned in any country for two years.
    • The citizen has been ordinarily resident out of India for seven years continuously.

About Constitution Bench

  • A Constitution Bench is a special bench of the Supreme Court having 5 or more judges on it.
  • These benches are not a common phenomenon. Constitution Benches are exceptions, set up only if;
    • The case involves a significant question of law pertaining to the interpretation of the Constitution [Article 145(3) of the Constitution, which mandates that such matters be heard by a bench of not less than five judges]
    • Two or more benches of the Supreme Court have delivered conflicting judgments on the same point of law.
  • The Constitution Benches are set up on an ad hoc basis and when the need arises.
    • Constitution Bench is constituted in rare cases to decide important questions of fact or legal and/or constitutional interpretation.
  • Article 130 says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.