CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT, 2019
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- A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) U.U Lalit to hear the challenge to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
- The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 seeks to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
- The law was challenged before the Supreme Court on the grounds that;
- The law violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees that no person shall be denied the right to equality before the law or the equal protection of the law in the Indian Territory.
- The law goes against the basic structure of the Indian constitution as granting citizenship on the grounds of religion is seen against the secular nature of the Constitution which has been recognized as part of the basic structure that cannot be altered by Parliament.
- The government argued that the act “does not provide for any relaxations to the foreigners and applies only to foreigners who have entered the country legally”.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
- The Bill amended the Citizenship Act, of 1955.
- The Citizenship Act, of 1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired.
- It provides for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of the territory into India.
- It regulates the registration of Overseas Citizen of India Cardholders (OCIs) and their rights.
- The Act provide that the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, will not be treated as illegal migrants.
- They are also exempted from the Foreigners Act, of 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, of 1920.
- The 1920 Act mandates foreigners to carry passports, while the 19th Act regulates the entry and departure of foreigners in India.
- The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by registration or naturalisation if the person meets certain qualifications;
- To obtain citizenship by naturalisation, one of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or have been in service of the central government for at least 11 years before applying for citizenship.
- The present act creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, concerning this qualification. For these groups of persons, the 11 years requirement was reduced to five years.
- Citizenship status in India allows citizens of the Indian State to enjoy all civil and political rights.
- 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 the 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.