The Citizenship Act, 1955
The Parliament of India enacted The Citizenship Act on December 30, 1955. The Act lays down rules for the ‘acquisition and termination’ of Indian citizenship. While Part II of the Constitution of India defines citizenship at ‘the commencement of the Constitution’ (January 26, 1950), it says that the Parliament has the power to enact a law on citizenship. (See this resource for the discussion on Part II in the Constituent Assembly Debates.) The Citizenship Act, 1955, was amended in 1985, 1992, 2003, 2005 and 2015.
How can a person get Indian citizenship?
Indian citizenship can be acquired through birth (Section 3), descent (Section 4), registration (Section 5), ‘naturalisation’ (Section 6), and the incorporation of a foreign territory into India (Section 7).
How can a person apply for citizenship?
A non-citizen, who is not an ‘illegal migrant’ (defined by the Act as a foreigner who has entered India), can apply for citizenship through 'naturalisation' or the process of acquiring the citizenship of another country. The Act’s third schedule lays down certain criteria for naturalisation, which include that the person applying has to be a resident of India for 12 years before the date of his or her application.
What rights and benefits does an Overseas Citizen of India have?
The Act enables people who were once citizens of India but are now citizens of another country, among others, to apply for an Overseas Citizen of India Card. An Overseas Citizen of India is entitled to various benefits, including a multiple-entry, lifelong visa for India and an exemption from registering with the Foreign Regional Registration Officer to stay in India.
What must an Indian citizen do to renounce his or her citizenship?
As per Section 8 of the Act, an Indian citizen can renounce his or her citizenship by making a declaration to the Collector, Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate.
Under what conditions can a person’s Indian citizenship be taken away from him or her?
Section 10 of the Act empowers the central government to deprive a person of Indian citizenship if he or she has obtained citizenship through fraud, if he or she is disloyal to the Constitution, or if he or she has assisted an ‘enemy’ in a war that India is fighting, among other instances.
How does the Act accommodate ‘illegal migrants’ from Bangladesh in Assam?
Section 6A, inserted into the Act through a 1985 amendment, has special provisions for the citizenship of people covered by the Assam Accord. (The Assam Accord, signed in 1985 by the central government, the All Assam Students Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parished, came at the end of a long agitation against the influx of immigrants from then East Bengal into Assam.) The section says that all those who migrated to Assam before January 1, 1966, can be considered Indian citizens, and those who migrated between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, can be given citizenship if they have been Indian residents and are ‘foreigners’. People who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, are classified as ‘illegal migrants’.
Focus and Factoids by Pratik Dixit.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
30 Dec, 1955