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Citizenship under the Indian Constitution
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Citizenship under the Indian Constitution

What does the term Citizenship mean?

For many, the word ‘Citizenship’ conjures images of a strong national identity determined by birth, ethnicity, history, culture and. In a legal sense, ‘Citizenship’ indicates the political status and relationship shared by an individual and the nation. Generally, the individual is conferred protection by the nation in return for fulfilling certain obligations owed by the individual to the state.

Citizenship is a status granted by becoming a member of the nation through appropriate law. Any person can become a member of the country by satisfying the legal requirements of the respective country. In simple terms, the virtue of being a citizen of the country is called citizenship.

Every state grants some rights and privileges to its citizens, and they are also bound to follow the regulations framed by the government of the respective country.

Nationality Vs Citizenship

‘Nationality’ and ‘Citizenship’ are one of the most misconstrued and misunderstood terms. For a layman, ‘nationality’ works as a substitute for ‘Citizenship’ and vice versa. However, one of the major difference between the two concepts is that nationality can't be changed while citizenship can. To further explain this statement, we should take the following into consideration: The nationality of a person, reveals his/her place of birth, i.e. from where he/she belongs. It defines the belongingness of a person to a particular nation. And on the contrary, Citizenship is granted to an individual by the government of the country, upon completing legal formalities.

The Citizenship law in India

The Citizenship law in India is governed by the Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Constitution of India. India is one of the very few countries whose Citizenship law is incorporated in the Constitution. Due to unavoidable circumstances that arose because of the partition of India and Pakistan and the freedom of Indian state to either join the Union or leave it, the citizenship law had to be incorporated in the Constitution.

How can one acquire Indian citizenship?

To be entitled to acquire Citizenship by Domicile there are 3 conditions which need to be fulfilled:-

  1. He must have been born in the territory of India,
  2. Either of his parents must have been born in the territory of India,
  3. He must have been ordinarily residing in India for not less than five years immediately preceding the commencement of the constitution.

Ways through which a person can acquire Citizenship and become a recognized citizen are:-

  1. Birth (A Person Born in India shall be Citizen),
  2. Descent (A person born outside India shall be a citizen of India by descent),
  3. Naturalization (Citizenship of India by naturalisation can be acquired by a foreigner who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve years),
  4. Registration (Citizenship of India by registration),
  5. Marriage,
  6. Incorporation of the territory.

Status of Dual Citizenship in India

The Indian constitution does not allow its citizens the right to dual citizenship. But there are some powers that are in relation to dual citizenship, similar if not the same. When you become an Indian citizen, you will be obliged to give up your previous passport.

The provision of Overseas Citizenship of India and Person of Indian Origin is often confused with dual citizenship. There is a misconception that our Indian Constitution grants the provision for dual citizenship. However, the terms are explained below:

Non-Resident Indians: Those who still hold Indian passports but work or live in other countries;

Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cardholder: Someone who is a foreign citizen but who at some point of time held an Indian passport or whose parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were born and permanently resided in India or is a spouse of a citizen of India or a PIO and;

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders: Those who have given up their Indian passports but hold certain rights in India except voting rights.

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