By Stuti Saxena, IGNOU, Delhi.
Citizenship in India is administered under the statutory provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, which has been amended from time to time. Further to this, Indian Constitution also enshrines the tenets of Citizenship in its Part II. India follows the system of single citizenship. As per Indian nationality law, jus sanguinis (citizenship by right of blood) in contrast with jus soli (citizenship by right of birth within the territory) is the norm. The first citizen of India is the President of India. Article 9(1) of the Indian Constitution explicitly states that any citizen of India, who by naturalization or registration acquires the citizenship of another country, shall cease to be an Indian citizen. Dual citizenship implies that an individual may acquire citizenship of more than one country. This article underscores the advantages and disadvantages of dual citizenship in the Indian case. It is concluded that India should usher in dual citizenship as soon as possible.
In the post-Independence times, Indians enjoyed the status of Commonwealth citizens since they had Indian citizenship and Commonwealth’s membership. While the country was witnessing liberation of its territories from the British, French or Portugese, the central government issued separate citizenship statutes like Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1962, Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Citizenship) Order, 1962 and Citizenship (Pondicherry) Order 1962. Such a federal basis of citizenship is definitely unsuitable for Indian interests. Such federal tendencies might wreak havoc in the minds of our countrymen and might lead to infighting among the states. Dual citizenship entails citizenship of more than one country.
In line with the demands of some of the NRIs, a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Card was issued commencing from 2002 to those individuals who can prove their Indian origin up to three generations before. Of late, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme was introduced in 2005 by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955. An OCI enjoys all rights and privileges available to a Non-Resident Indian on a parity basis but for the right to invest in agriculture and plantation properties or to hold public office. An OCI, however, does not give the right to vote. In 2011, both the card schemes were merged and came to be known as Overseas Indian Card.
The advantage of single citizenship lies in the fact that the loyalty to one country remains holistic and uniform. Enjoying political and civil rights in one country ensure that one conforms to the tenets of the country and would not barter one for the sake of another’s interests. A terrorist, with his dual citizenship, might wreak havoc in the enemy state. For instance, an individual, with the citizenship of India as well as Pakistan, might be suspected of inflicting terrorist attacks. Similarly, there are biases in our minds with respect to some other nations. The present article, however, argues that dual citizenship is the need of the hour. Some of the countries which allow dual citizenship are UK, USA, Australia, Canada, France and Russia. Some of the countries which have forbidden dual citizenship are Germany, China, Japan and India. Freedom of mind, from the shackles of mistrust, is needed. Every individual does not acquire dual citizenship for nefarious reasons. There is an atmosphere of camaraderie among nations too. An individual with a dual passport has the advantage of conducting his trade or business activities without any need to get visas or permissions while travelling. Further, it also helps the individual to buy property in the other country or get access to restricted areas.
I propose that dual citizenship be introduced in the country keeping the following tenets in mind:
- Let all the countries of the world be classified as per their compatibility with India in terms of the relations in the past. Those with terrorist background should be classified as the highly intolerant states and those maintaining peaceful relationship in the past should be categorized as highly tolerant states. Dual citizenship should be afforded for highly tolerant states and not in the case of highly intolerant ones.
- Let dual citizenship entail free access to property in both countries. However, the degree of investment should be higher in the parent country. That is, if an individual is carrying on business in countries A and B where A is the country where he was a natural citizen, about 60% proceeds of the business profit should be invested in the country A.
- Right to vote should be given to the individuals holding dual citizenship. This implies that an individual holding dual citizenship for India and USA, for instance, should be able to vote in both the countries.
- Legal rights should be enjoyed by the individuals holding dual citizenship. For instance, the laws of the country A and B should be equally applicable on the individual.
- Security checks of individuals with dual citizenship should be tight. Their activities and movements should be closely monitored in both the countries. Forewarning and instructions should be given to the individuals on an a priori basis.
- Dual citizenship shall flow down the family chain until the children grow up as adults and attain 18 years of age. After attaining 18 years of age, they should have the choice to hold dual or single citizenship. Should they wish to acquire a third country’s citizenship, the same may be allowed to them provided that they forego the citizenship of one of their existing ones.
With some amendments here and there, dual citizenship should be introduced in India. This would be a major landmark in the history of Indian citizenship and facilitate those Indians who wish to conduct their business in the country and across borders.