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Citizenship in India

This article is presented by Himani Sharma, CS Finalist from Institute of Company Secretaries of India

Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the sovereign state or part of a nation.


Part II under Article 5 to 11 of the Constitution of India deal with citizenship in India. It identifies the person who becomes citizens of India after the commencement of the Constitution (i.e. On 26th January 1950)
The constitution empowers the parliament to enact a law to provide for such matters as acquisition or loss and any other matter relating to citizenship. Accordingly, the parliament has enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955, which has been amended in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2015.


Citizenship Act, 1955


The Citizenship Act, 1955 provide for acquisition and loss of citizenship in India after the commencement of the constitution. Originally, the Citizenship Act also provided for the Commonwealth Citizenship. But, the provision was replaced by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003.


Acquisition of citizenship


• A citizen is a person who enjoys full membership of the country in which he lives, the Indian constitution provides a single and uniform citizenship for the entire country.
• The Citizenship Act of 1955, describe five ways of acquiring citizenship viz Birth, descent, registration, naturalization, and incorporation of territory.

  1. By Birth
    • Every person born in India on or after 26 January 1950, but before 1st July 1987 is this citizen of India by birth irrespective of nationalities of his/her parents.
    • A person born in India on or after 1st July 1987 is a citizen only if either of his/her parents is a citizen of India at the time of his/ her birth shall be a citizen of India by birth, it irrespective of the nationality of his parents. The children of foreign diplomats posted in India and enemy aliens cannot acquire Indian citizenship.
  2. By Descent
    Person born outside India on or after 26 January 1950 but before 10 December 1992 are citizen of India by descent if their father was a citizen of India at the time of their birth.
  3. By Registration
    The central government may on an application, register as a citizen of India. Any person, if he belongs to any of the following categories:
    • a person of Indian origin, residing in India for seven years.
    • A person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in any country or place outside undivided India.
    • Woman who are married to citizen of India and resident of India for seven years.
    • Minor children of persons, who are citizen of India.
    • A person of full age and capacity, whose parents are registered as citizen of India.
  4. By Naturalisation
    It can be acquired by foreigner, who has resided in India for 12 years.
  5. By Incorporation of territory
    If any new foreign territory become a part of India, the Government of India specifies the person who among the people or the territory shall be the citizens of India. Such persons become the citizen of India from the notified date.

Loss of citizenship


The Citizenship Act, 1955 prescribes three ways of losing citizenship namely: renunciation, termination and deprivation.

  1. By Renunciation
    • Any citizen of India of full age capacity can make a declaration renouncing his/her Indian citizenship.
    • Upon the registration of that declaration, that person ceases to be a citizen of India. However if such a declaration is made during a war in which India is engaged, its registration shall be withheld by the central government.
    • Further, when a person renounces his/her Indian citizenship, every minor child of that person also loses Indian citizenship. However, when such a child attains the age of 18 years, he or she may resume Indian citizenship.
  2. By Termination
    When an Indian citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, his Indian citizenship automatically terminates. This provision however does not apply during a war in which India is engaged.
  3. By Deprivation
    It is a compulsory termination of Indian citizenship by the Government of India, if
    • the citizen has obtained the 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 of naturalization, been imprisoned in any country of for two years
    • the citizen has been ordinarily resident out of India for seven years continuously.
    An overseas citizen of India (OCI)
    • In September 2000, the Government of India has set up a high-level committee on Indian diaspora under the chairmanship of LM Sanghvi.
    • The committee submitted its report in January 2002 and recommended to amend the citizenship act, 1955 to provide for the grant of dual citizenship to the Persons of Indian origin (PIOs) belonging to certain specified countries.
    • Accordingly the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2003 made provision for the acquisition of OCI by the PIOs or 16 specified countries other than Pakistan and Bangladesh.
    • Later, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2005 expanded the scope of the grant of OCI for PIOs of all countries all except Pakistan in Bangladesh as long as their home countries all dual citizenship under their local laws.
    • Again citizenship (Amendment) act 2015, has modified the provisions pertaining to the OCI in the Principal Act ( Citizenship act 1955).• It has introduced a new scheme called overseas citizen of India card Holder by merging the PIO card scheme and OCI Card scheme.

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