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CITIZENSHIP ACT, 1955

The Citizenship Act (1955) provides for acquisition and loss of citizenship after the commencement of the Constitution. This Act has been amended so far eight times. Citizenship Act (1955) also provided for the Commonwealth Citizenship. But, this provision was repealed by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003.

Acquisition of Citizenship

The Citizenship Act of 1955 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship, viz, birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and incorporation of territory:

1.. By Birth

A person born in India on or after 26th January 1950 but before 1st July 1987 is a citizen of India by birth irrespective of the nationality of his parents.

  • A person born in India on or after 1st July 1987 is considered as 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 3rd December 2004 are considered citizens of India only if both of their parents are citizens of India or one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of their birth.
  • The children of foreign diplomats posted in India and enemy aliens cannot acquire Indian citizenship by birth.

2… By Descent

A person born outside India on or after 26th January 1950 but before 10th December 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 10th December 1992 is considered as a citizen of India if either of his parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • From 3rd December 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 or with the permission of the Central Government, after the expiry of the said period.
  • An application, for registration of the birth of a minor child, to an Indian consulate shall be accompanied by an undertaking in writing from the parents of such minor child that he or she does not hold the passport of another country.
  • Further, a minor who is a citizen of India by virtue of descent and is also a citizen of any other country shall cease to be a citizen of India if he does not renounce the citizenship or nationality of another country within six months of his attaining full age.

3…By Registration

The Central Government may, on an application, register as a citizen of India any person (not being an illegal migrant) if he belongs to any of the following categories, namely:-

  1. a person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in India for seven years before making an application for registration;
  2. a person of Indian origin who is ordinarily resident in any country or place outside undivided India;
  3. 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;
  4. minor children of persons who are citizens of India;
  5. a person of full age and capacity whose parents are registered as citizens of India;
  6. a person of full age and capacity who, or either of his parents, was earlier citizen of independent India, and is ordinarily resident in India for twelve months immediately before making an application for registration;
  7. a person of full age and capacity who has been registered as an overseas citizen of India cardholder for five years, and who is ordinarily resident in India for twelve months before making an application for registration.

A person shall be deemed to be of Indian origin if he, or either of his parents, was born in undivided India or in such other territory which became part of India after the 15th August, 1947.

All the above categories of persons must take an oath of allegiance before they are registered as citizens of India. The form of the oath is as follows:

I, A/B………………. do solemnly affirm (or swear) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of India and fulfill my duties as a citizen of India.

4…By Naturalisation

The Central Government may, on an application, grant a certificate of naturalisation to any person (not being an illegal migrant) if he possesses the following qualifications:

  1. that he is not a subject or citizen of any country where citizens of India are prevented from becoming subjects or citizens of that country by naturalisation;
  2. that, if he is a citizen of any country, he undertakes to renounce the citizenship of that country in the event of his application for Indian citizenship being accepted;
  3. that he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India or partly the one and partly the other, throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the date of the application;
  4. that during the fourteen years immediately preceding the said period of twelve months, he has either resided in India or been in the service of a Government in India, or partly the one and partly the other, for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than eleven years;
  5. that he is of good character;
  6. that he has an adequate knowledge of a language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, and
  7. that in the event of a certificate of naturalisation being granted to him, he intends to reside in India, or to enter into or continue in, service under a Government in India or under an international organisation of which India is a member or under a society, company or body of persons established in India.

However, the Government of India may waive all or any of the above conditions for naturalisation in the case of a person who has rendered distinguished service to the science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress. Every naturalised citizen must take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India.

5…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 the 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.

6..Special Provisions as to Citizenship of Persons Covered by the Assam Accord

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985, added the following special provisions as to citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord (which related to the foreigners’ issue):
  1. All persons of Indian origin who came to Assam before the 1st January, 1966 from Bangladesh and who have been ordinarily residents in Assam since the date of their entry into Assam shall be deemed to be citizens of India as from the 1st January, 1966. 
  2. Every person of Indian origin who came to Assam on or after the 1st January, 1966 but before the 25th March, 1971 from Bangladesh and who has been ordinarily resident in Assam since the date of his entry into Assam and who has been detected to be a foreigner shall register himself. Such a registered person shall be deemed to be a citizen of India for all purposes as from the date of expiry of a period of ten years from the date of detection as a foreigner. But, in the intervening period of ten years, he shall have the same rights and obligations as a citizen of India, excepting the right to vote.

Loss of Citizenship

The Citizenship Act, 1955, prescribes three ways of losing citizenship whether acquired under the Act or prior to it under the Constitution, viz, renunciation, termination and deprivation:

1. By Renunciation

Any citizen of India of full age and capacity can make a declaration renouncing his Indian citizenship. Upon the registration of that declaration, that person ceases to be a citizen of India. However, if such a declaration is made during a war in which India is engaged, its registration shall be withheld by the Central Government.

Further, 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.

2.. By Termination

When an Indian citizen voluntarily (consciously, knowingly and without duress, undue influence or compulsion) 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.

3. By Deprivation

It is a compulsory termination of Indian citizenship by the Central government, if:

  1. the citizen has obtained the citizenship by fraud:
  2. the citizen has shown disloyalty to the Constitution of India:
  3. the citizen has unlawfully traded or communicated with the enemy during a war;
  4. the citizen has, within five years after registration or naturalisation, been imprisoned in any country for two years; and
  5. the citizen has been ordinarily resident out of India for seven years continuously.

> This will not apply if he is a student abroad, or is in the service of a government in India or an international organisation of which India is a member, or has registered annually at an Indian consulate his intention to retain his Indian citizenship.


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