Articles 5-11 (Part II) in the Constituent Assembly of India Debates (Proceedings): Volume IX – August 10, 11 and 12, 1949
The Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution of India from 1946 to 1950. It sat for the first time on December 9, 1946, and in two years and 11 months, it met for 11 sessions spread over 165 days. On November 26, 1949, the Assembly adopted the Constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the chairman of the Assembly, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the chairman of the Drafting Committee. A majority of the Assembly’s deliberations were debates on the Draft Constitution, which was presented for discussion on November 4, 1948. Over the next year, Assembly members debated each clause in detail and proposed amendments that were either adopted or rejected by a majority vote.
The Assembly debated Articles 5 and 6 of the Draft Constitution (which became Articles 5-11 or Part II of the Constitution) on August 10, 11 and 12, 1949. Part II defines Indian citizenship at 'the commencement of the Constitution’ (January 26, 1950) for people residing in India and outside it, those migrating to India from Pakistan and vice-versa, and those who have accepted the citizenship of another country. However, it leaves the task of laying down a law on citizenship for the Parliament.
What do Articles 5-11 (Part II) of the Constitution say?
Article 5 defines an Indian citizen at the ‘commencement of the Constitution’ as any individual who lives in 'the territory of India,' was born in India or one of whose parents was born here, or who has been a resident of India for not less than five years preceding the commencement of the Constitution.
Article 6 says that migrants from Pakistan are citizens of India if they, their parents or grandparents were born in India (as defined by the Government of India Act, 1935), if they migrated to India before July 19, 1948, and lived here since, or if they applied for citizenship before the commencement of the Constitution, even if they migrated on or after July 19, 1948. According to Article 7, anyone migrating from India to Pakistan after March 1, 1947, will not be an Indian citizen.
Article 8 says that an individual, who lives outside India but was born in India, or whose parent or grandparent was born in India, can apply for citizenship with an Indian diplomatic or consular representative where he/she lives. Article 9 says that voluntarily acquiring the citizenship of another country leads to the loss of Indian citizenship.
Article 10 says that a person considered a citizen under the provisions of Part II will also be subject to the citizenship law made by the Parliament. Article 11 says that nothing in Part II shall detract from the Parliament’s power to enact a law on citizenship.
What was the significance of the date July 19, 1948, in the debates on Part II?
On July 19, 1948, an ordinance was passed by the Government of India, which said that no person could come into the country unless he/she had a permit. The government also framed certain rules on the same day, according to which a person coming to India from Pakistan could get a permit which entitled him/her entry into the country. A person could get three kinds of permits – a temporary permit, a permanent permit, and a permit for resettlement or permanent return – but only those with resettlement permits would be considered for citizenship under Article 5(a) of the Draft Constitution (which later became Article 6 of the Constitution).
Which amendments were proposed during the debates on Part II?
On August 11, 1949, Assembly member PS Deshmukh (Central Provinces [CP] and Berar) said that there should be a provision so that anyone who is a Sikh or a Hindu and not a citizen of another country is entitled to Indian citizenship. Deshmukh and Assembly member Shibban Lal Saxena (United Provinces), who supported Deshmukh’s amendment, argued that Hindus and Sikhs had no home other than India. Assembly member RK Sidhwa (CP and Berar), who opposed this amendment, argued that mentioning only two religious communities would not “be proper” and would be “ignoring other communities.”
Assembly member Jaspat Roy Kapoor (United Provinces) proposed that Draft Article 5 be amended so that it grants citizenship to those born between the ‘commencement of the Constitution’ and the creation of a law on citizenship by the Parliament. Kapoor also raised concern over the phrase ‘deemed to be to be a citizen of India’ and whether it suggested an unequal right to citizenship, particularly for migrants from Pakistan. This triggered arguments about tone and legal clarity.
Assembly member KT Shah (Bihar) proposed that the term ‘Dominion’ (in the phrase ‘Dominion of India’) be replaced with ‘Republic’. He also suggested that citizenship through inheritance from grandparents be limited to grandparents on the paternal side, given the country’s very poor registration system. He proposed that the Parliament should not accord equal citizenship rights to the nationals of any country which denies equal treatment to Indian nationals.
Several members were concerned that citizenship as defined in the Draft Articles was being made too easy, particularly PS Deshmukh, Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava (East Punjab), Shibban Lal Saxena and Naziruddin Ahmad (West Bengal).
How were these concerns resolved?
August 11 and 12, 1949, were mostly spent debating the proposed amendments as well as amendments that came up to fine-tune them. After this, Assembly member Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar (Madras) said that Part II of the Constitution could not deal with all the complicated problems of citizenship, which would be resolved by the Parliament while framing the law on it. So, all the amendments were sent to the Drafting Committee for further discussion, withdrawn or rejected, and the Articles proposed in the Draft Constitution were adopted without modifications.
Focus and Factoids by Ragini Rao Munjuluri.
Constituent Assembly of India
Government of India, New Delhi