Citizenship in India: Constitutional and Statutory provisions

Throughout our 73 years as an independent nation, Indian citizenship laws have seen constant changes and progression [and in some cases regression :) ]. We have continued working on the law on citizenship with a multitude of amendments to the Constitution of India and some defining landmark cases as a front for such operations.

But, before we delve into the multiple ways one can gain citizenship of India and what amendments shaped the laws that exist today, we need to understand what it means to be a “Citizen” and what typical citizenship of a country entails.

Defining Citizenship:

Citizens stuck in on road traffic

A citizen is simply a participatory member of a political system in a country. A Citizenship is typically gained by satisfying legal requirements defined by a country’s code on the same. A citizen is granted full rights and required to fulfill his/her responsibilities (duties) towards the nation. As a citizen of a country, you are also expected to contribute to the betterment of your nation and represent it with pride and honor as a part of your identity.

As T.H Marshall described it- Citizenship is constituted by three key elements- “full membership of community” be it civil, social, or political.

Modes of acquiring Indian Citizenship:

In India, there are two ways someone can acquire citizenship:

Mode 1- Provisions under PART- II, Constitution of India:

The Constitution does not lay down a comprehensive list of provisions relating to citizenship in India. Article 5 to 8 of the Constitution just lays down the classes of persons that qualify to attain Indian citizenship at the very commencement of the Constitution i.e. on 26th Jan 1950 when India became a republic. The citizens under this part have been classified into:

  1. Citizenship by DOMICILE

  2. Citizenship by MIGRATION

  3. Citizenship by REGISTRATION

1. Citizenship by Domicile:

The term “domicile” is itself not defined in the Constitution. In general, the domicile of a person resides in that country where he has either or deemed by law to have his permanent house. The key distinction of the term “residence” and “domicile” is that the latter stands for the intention to build/have a permanent home in a territory.

Blue rooftops in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

In Joshi v. Madhya Bharat (AIR 1955),

The Supreme Court opined that “when we speak of a person having domicile of a particular country, we mean that in certain matters such as succession, minority, and marriage, he is governed by the law of that country”.

Under Article 5, every person having domicile in India at the commencement of the Constitution as well as fulfilling ANY the following conditions is a citizen of India by Domicile:

  1. He/ She was born in India

  2. Either of the parents was born in India.

  3. He/she has been an ordinarily resident in India for a minimum of 5 years before the commencement of the Constitution.

As for Domicile, matters like intention to leave the country become quite relevant to the case. Also, the burden of proof to prove such domicile exists lies solely on the petitioner.

In Central Bank of India v. Ram Narain (AIR 1955)

The Court held that the intention to reside in a country where one has taken residence is an essential element for the existence of domicile in that country.

#Note- A minor takes the domicile of his/her father (as held in Dawood Mohd. v. Union of India)

#Note- A married woman takes the domicile of her husband (as held in Karinum Nisa v. State of Madhya Pradesh)

2. Citizenship by Migration:

Refugees dwelling on footpaths after migration from another country

Under Article 6, an immigrant from Pakistan becomes an Indian citizen if he or either of his parents or any of his grandparents was born in India (as it was before independence) and fulfilled EITHER of the following two conditions: