The Constitution of India under Part II Articles 5 to 11 deals with granting citizenship to a person in India. According to Article 9, a person ceases to be a citizen of India if he willingly attains the citizenship of another country. Similarly, where a person cease to be a citizen as per Article 9 shall submit his passport in India before the concerned authority, the failure of which is an offence punishable under the Passport Act.
To comply with the provisions of the Constitution, the Parliament enacted the Citizenship Act in 1955. The main objective of the Act is to provide for the attainment and termination of citizenship in India. The Act defines ‘citizen’ as a person who is a citizen or national of the country described in the first schedule to the Act according to any citizenship law prevalent in that country. Moreover, any person born in a ship or aircraft registered in another country shall be deemed to have born in that country where the ship or aircraft is registered.
In accordance with the provisions of the Act, a person acquires Indian citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization or incorporation of territory. A citizen attains citizenship by birth if he is born on or after January 26, 1950 in India. But, according to the proviso to this section, a person shall not attain citizenship by birth where the father of the person is a foreign envoy who enjoys immunity from legal proceedings and is a non-citizen of India. The Act also bars the conferring of citizenship to a person if his father is an enemy alien. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986 added a new provision that all persons born on or after January 26, 1950, either during or after enforcement of the Act and the parents are born in India during this period shall attain citizenship by birth.
After the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1992, a person who is abroad can acquire citizenship by descent where his father or mother is an Indian citizen during his birth. But if his father has acquired citizenship by descent, he shall acquire citizenship only according to the stipulations provided under the Act. A person who is not a citizen of India as per the provisions of the Constitution or any other law in force shall attain citizenship by way of registration after filing an application before the concerned authority, but complying with the conditions and limitations provided under the Act. The following categories of persons can apply for acquiring citizenship by registration:
• A person who is of Indian origin and normally resident in India for five years instantly before the submission of request for registration;
• A person who is of Indian origin but normally residing abroad or in a place outside India before partition;
• A person married to Indian citizen and normally resident in India for five years instantly before applying for registration;
• Minor children of Indian citizen;
• A person who has attained majority and is of sound mind who are citizens of the nation mentioned in the first schedule.
Another mode for acquisition of citizenship is by way of naturalization. Where a person files an application to attain citizenship by naturalization, the Central Government shall grant the person a certificate of naturalization if such person is entitled for naturalization under the third schedule. The person shall become Indian citizen by naturalization after taking oath in the prescribed manner. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985 inserted a new section dealing with citizenship of persons under the Assam accord. A person shall become citizen of India where a new region is included in the Indian Territory and such person has any relation with that territory.
The Act also deals with provisions for termination of citizenship by way of renunciation or acquiring of citizenship of another nation. The Central Government shall have the power to deprive a person of his citizenship upon the stipulations provided under the Act and as per the provisions of the Constitution.
In 1962, the Central Government promulgated the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order and Dadar and Nagar Haveli (Citizenship) Order and Citizenship (Pondicherry) Order to provide express provisions to the people residing in these territories regarding citizenship.
The Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended several times in 1986, 1992, 2003, and thereafter in 2005. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 inserted a new scheme called Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Card. Additionally, the Central Government has also created Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Card provided to a person presently holding non-Indian passport. A proposal has also been formulated to merge the Overseas Citizenship of India Card with that of Persons of Indian Origin Card which is to be called as Overseas Indian Card.