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Indian Polity (Citizenship): A Comprehensive Guide for UPSC Preparation Introduction


Citizenship establishes the relationship between a state and an individual. In the Indian context, citizenship serves as an integral aspect of our political landscape and holds pivotal status in the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Let's embark on a detailed exploration of this crucial topic.

Categories of Citizenship

Understanding the different categories of citizenship is vital for grasping the concept itself:

  • Citizens: Citizens enjoy full political and civil rights; their status is legally established.

  • Non-Citizens: Non-citizens do not receive the same full legal rights as citizens, despite residing in the country.

  • Stateless Persons: Stateless persons lack citizenship in any nation.

  • Refugees: Refugees have fled their home country due to conflict or persecution, and thus seek refuge and protection in a foreign country.

Constitutional Provisions Related to Citizenship

  • Articles 5-11 (Part II of the Indian Constitution): These fundamental articles delineate the provisions and guidelines concerning citizenship as of the Constitution's commencement on January 26, 1950.

Additional Citizenship Provisions

  • The Citizenship Act of 1955: This legislation sets forth exhaustive regulations concerning the acquisition and termination of Indian citizenship.

Exclusive Privileges for Indian Citizens

Certain fundamental rights and privileges exist uniquely for Indian citizens:

  • Voting rights during elections

  • Access to public office positions

  • Rights enshrined in Articles 15, 16, 19, 29, and 30 of the Indian Constitution

Rights and Duties of Citizens

  • Rights: Freedom of speech, assembly, association, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession (with reasonable restrictions).

  • Duties: Obeying the law, safeguarding public property, defending the nation, fostering patriotism, embracing unity and harmony.

Fundamental Rights to Foreigners

Certain fundamental rights granted by the Indian Constitution are applicable to both citizens and non-citizens:

  • Article 14: Equality before the law

  • Article 21: Protection of life and liberty

  • Articles 20, 22, 23, 24: Legal safeguards relating to arrest, conviction, and exploitation

The Citizenship Act of 1955

The core legislation defining Indian citizenship outlines five modes of acquiring citizenship:

  1. Citizenship by Birth: Applies to people born in India on or after January 26, 1950.

  2. Citizenship by Descent: Individuals born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, are entitled if either parent is an Indian citizen at the time of their birth.

  3. Citizenship by Registration: A provision applicable to specific categories of people –persons of Indian origin, Indian citizen spouses, minor children.

  4. Citizenship by Naturalisation: Foreigners fulfilling specified criteria may apply.

  5. Citizenship by Incorporation of Territory: Occurs if new territory is absorbed into India.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 1986 & 2019

  • CAA 1986: Introduced the term "illegal migrant," leading to disenfranchisement of citizens in Assam.

  • CAA 2019: Seeks to fast-track citizenship for persecuted non-Muslim minorities (Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis) from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who arrived in India before December 31, 2014.

Loss of Citizenship

There are three primary ways in which Indian citizenship can be lost:

  1. Renunciation: Voluntary surrendering of citizenship.

  2. Termination: Occurs if citizenship was acquired through fraudulent means.

  3. Deprivation: The government can revoke citizenship upon grounds linked to anti-national activities.

Indian Citizenship for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals may be eligible for Indian citizenship under specific categories:

  • Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card: Individuals who trace their ancestry back to India for at least four generations qualify for this, offering several benefits.

  • Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Card: An immigration status aimed at individuals of Indian origin, providing lifelong visas and certain rights similar to Indian citizens, with some exceptions.

Benefits for OCI Cardholders

  • Lifelong, multiple-entry visa to India

  • Parity with NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) for economic, financial, and educational matters

  • Ability to adopt Indian children

Limitations for OCI Cardholders

  • Lack of political rights (holding office and voting)

  • Restrictions on acquiring agricultural land

  • Need to register with authorities if staying in India for over 180 days

Non-Resident Indians (NRI)

NRIs are Indian citizens residing overseas for employment/business purposes. They retain full citizenship rights except political rights like voting (unless physically present in their constituency).

Voting Rights for NRI

  • NRIs were recently granted limited voting rights under certain conditions with the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act of 2010. However, they must physically visit their polling station to cast their votes.

National Population Register (NPR)