Start music   Dec 27 2016 || 8:34 PM

The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds. A person may become an Indian citizen if they are born in India or have Indian parentage or have resided in the country over a period of time, etc. However, illegal migrants are prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.

Important amendments include:

  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported.
  • The Bill relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
  • The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.



  • Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. The 1946 and the 1920 Acts empower the central government to regulate the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.

Who are illegal migrants?

    • Foreigners who come into India without valid travel documents, or stay in the country beyond their visa period.

Is this the first instance?

    • Certain exceptions have been made to this law over the years. In September 2015, illegal migrants belonging to minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan coming to India on or before 31 Dec 2014 were allowed to stay. Moreover, the same exception was sought in July 2016.
    • There is no reliable official estimate on the number of illegal migrants in India


What is the present condition to get citizenship?

    • A person must have resided in India for 12 of the 15 years preceding the date of application. Under the 1955 Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.




  • Seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination is a violation of the Constitution (Art 14) and questions the secular nature of the nation. Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, minority sects Muslims of Pakistan are some of the most persecuted communities in the world who have not been considered. This is also seen as a form of gharwapsi by some groups.
  • The Bill does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants or talk about other minority communities. The government does not provide any clear rationale for doing so.
  • The Bill does not sit well with Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal; migrants heading from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.
  • The cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law (new addition) provides wide discretion to the government.This will include serious offences like murder, as well as minor offences like violation of a traffic law (such as parking in a no -parking zone or jumping a red light).The question is whether minor violations should result in cancellation of OCI registration, which may require an OCI who is staying in India to leave the country.