Citizenship and Related Issues

Citizenship and Related Issues

Issues with MHA notification for OCI


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Difference between OCI and NRI

Mains level : Paper 2- Issues faced by OCI

About notification

  • The Home Ministry’s March 4 order that required professional Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), such as journalists, engineers and researchers, to notify the Ministry about their activities in India.
  • The notification said that OCIs shall be required to obtain a “special permission or a special permit” from the competent authority or the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) or the Indian mission “to undertake research, missionary or Tabligh or mountaineering or journalistic activities or internship in any foreign diplomatic missions
  • The Ministry issued a gazette notification that OCI cardholders could claim “only NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota seats” in educational institutions.

Issues with the notification

  • This will place undue burden on scientific, pharmaceutical, medical, biotechnology and other research fields.
  • Even if an OCI student has secured a high rank in an exam like NEET, several institutions of repute do not have NRI seats.
  • The exorbitantly high fees under the NRI quota cannot be afforded by many OCIs as they live and work in India.
  • India-domiciled OCI students are deprived of domicile status both in India [country of residence] as well as the country of their citizenship.
  • The notification equates India-domiciled OCIs with a foreigner.

About OCIs

  • OCIs are of Indian origin but hold foreign passports.
  • India does not allow dual citizenship but provides certain benefits under Section 7B(I) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the OCIs.
  • So far, 37.72 lakh OCI Cards are said to have been issued.

Citizenship and Related Issues

OCI card holders no longer required to carry old passports for India travel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PIO, OCI

Mains level : Indian Diaspora

People of Indian origin (PIO) and the Indian diaspora having Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards are now not required to carry their old, expired passports for travel to India.

UPSC can ask statement based question in prelims based on the definition and privileges of OCI card-holders.

Who is an Overseas Citizen?

  • An OCI is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015 when the government merged these two categories.
  • The MHA defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Privileges to an OCI

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card.
  • However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.

Why such a move?

  • There had been inconvenience caused to members of the Indian diaspora due to certain OCI card rules as they undertook to travel to India during the pandemic.
  • He said some of the passengers were not allowed to board flights to India and were sent back from airports as they were not carrying their old foreign passports, which was required as per government rules.
  • The OCI card, among other benefits, allows multiple entries, multi-purpose lifelong visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India.
  • Under the provisions of the OCI card, which gives the cardholder a lifelong visa to India, those below 20 years and above 50 years need to renew their OCI card every time they have their passport renewed.

Back2Basics: PIO vs. OCI

Citizenship and Related Issues

National Population Register


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Population Register

Mains level : NPR, NRC issues

The office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) has said the schedule or the questionnaire of the National Population Register (NPR) is being finalised.

The National Population Register (NPR)

  • The NPR is a database containing a list of all usual residents of the country. Its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of people residing in the country.
  • It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years.
  • The last census was in 2011, and the next will be done in 2021 (and will be conducted through a mobile phone application).
  • A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more and intends to reside there for another six months or more

How it is different from the Census?

  • The census involves a detailed questionnaire and there were 29 items to be filled up in the 2011 census.
  • They aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, whether they belonged to any SC or ST etc.
  • On the other hand, NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
  • Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgement slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR, whenever that process begins.
  • The details will be recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and state level.
  • Once the details are recorded, there will be a population register at each of these levels. Together, they constitute the National Population Register.

What is the legal basis for the NPR?

  • While the census is legally backed by the Census Act, 1948, the NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • Section 14A was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, in 2004, providing for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the issue of a “national identity card” to him or her.
  • It also said the Central government may maintain a “National Register of Indian Citizens”.
  • The Registrar General India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration).
  • Incidentally, the Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.

Attempt this question

Q.Enumerate the major points of the ‘Assam accord (1985)’. How is it associated with the present issue of the National Register of Citizens?

Citizenship and Related Issues

Census 2021 and the long-pending reforms


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Census of India

Mains level : Need for reforms in Census and Surveying

  • In all likelihood, the February 2021 Census will have to be rescheduled to ensure comparability with earlier censuses.
  • This will also affect the National Sample Surveys and others that use the census as the sampling frame.
  • The delay can, however, be used to introduce much-needed reforms to this gigantic exercise whose roots go back to the late 19th century.

Try this question for mains:

Q.The Census of India needs a basic overhaul beyond its procedural digitization. Critically analyse.

Background: Census of India

  • The decennial Census of India has been conducted 15 times, as of 2011.
  • While it has been undertaken every 10 years, beginning in 1872 under British Viceroy Lord Mayo, the first complete census was taken in 1881.
  • Post-1949, it has been conducted by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • All the censuses since 1951 were conducted under the 1948 Census of India Act.
  • The last census was held in 2011, whilst the next will be held in 2021.

Census 2021

  • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 22 scheduled languages (under 8th schedule) and English, while Census 2011 was in 16 of the 22 scheduled languages declared at that time.
  • It also will introduce a code directory to streamline the process
  • The option of “Other” under the gender category will be changed to “Third Gender”.
  • There were roughly 5 lakh people under “other” category in 2011.
  • For the first time in the 140 year history of the census in India, data is proposed to be collected through a mobile app by enumerators and they will receive an additional payment as an incentive.
  • The Census data would be available by the year 2024-25 as the entire process would be conducted digitally and data crunching would be quicker.

Issues with the Census

(1) Data quality issues

  • The past four decades have seen a decline in the quality of data and growing delays in its release despite technological innovations.
  • The use of census data in delimitation and federal redistribution has been questioned on grounds of poor quality, while the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the obsolete and poor quality of data on internal migration.

(2) No major reforms

  • The legal foundation of the census has remained largely unchanged since newly independent India enacted permanent census legislation in 1948.
  • Despite sustained problems, the census has not seen any major reform after 1994 when both the Census Act, 1948 and Census Rules, 1990 were amended.

(3) Old methods and questionnaire

  • The methodological core – extended de facto (synchronous) canvasser-based enumeration – too has remained intact even though the length and layout of schedules changed quite a bit.
  • The Household Schedule, for instance, grew with the footprint of the state, from 14 questions in 1951 to 29 questions in 2011.

(4) Workforce issues

  • Data collection has not kept pace with improvements in data processing technology due to the lack of motivated and adequately trained enumerators.
  • Given the high salaries of school teachers, the modest honorarium paid for census work does not cover the opportunity cost of conducting the door-to-door enumeration.

Understand the ‘purpose’ of the census

Reforms should begin with the design of schedules based on a clear understanding of two essential functions of the census:

(a) Resource allocations

  • First, census facilitates the rule-based distribution of power and resources through constitutionally mandated redistribution of taxes, delimitation of electoral constituencies and affirmative action policies.
  • It is also used in routine policy-making across tiers of government.

(b) Population projections

  • Second, census serves as the sampling frame for surveys and is also the basis of population projections.
  • Other routine policies require distribution of the headcount by households, marital status, age, sex, literacy, migrant status, and mother tongue.
  • Put together, these variables are sufficient for choosing representative samples for surveys.

What can be done?

1.Cut the questions

  • Nearly half of the ‘Houselisting and Housing Schedule’ of the census is devoted to questions on household amenities and assets.
  • These questions can be dropped because the information can be more appropriately collected through sample surveys and administrative statistics.

Why put fewer questions?

  • Cutting down the length of unwieldy schedules has several advantages.
  • First, it will improve data quality by reducing the workload of enumerators.
  • Second, it will also free up senior census officials and help revive the earlier tradition of producing detailed administrative and other reports crucial for understanding the context of data.
  • Third, shorter schedules will seem less invasive and assure respondents uncomfortable with sharing too many details.
  • Fourth, it will cut down processing time and help in reducing delays in the release of data.

2.Dealing with data manipulation

  • There is poor accounting of migrants that distorts estimates of urbanisation as well as the inter-state distribution of the population.
  • There exists grassroots manipulation of data-driven by political and economic considerations.
  • There is a need to demystify census operations and build trust in the impartiality of the exercise, better scrutiny of electoral records and welfare schemes to weed out bogus beneficiaries.


  • These reforms are essential to ensure that the census exercise is able to fulfil its constitutional, policy and statistical obligations and also clear the ground for debates on the future of census in the digital era.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assam Accord

Mains level : NRC and CAA debate

In February, a government-appointed committee had submitted its recommendations for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, a key provision that has been contentious for decades.

Must read:

What is Clause 6?

  • It is a part of the Assam Accord which came at the culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh.
  • It reads: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
  • For recognition as citizens, the Accord sets March 24, 1971, as the cutoff.
  • As immigrants up to the cutoff date would get all rights as Indian citizens, so Clause 6 was inserted to safeguard the socio-political rights and culture of the “indigenous people of Assam”.

What has happened since?

  • Several committees have been set up over the years to make recommendations on the implementation of Clause 6.
  • None of them made headway on the provision’s contentious issues, however, until the latest CAA move.
  • Following widespread protests against the CAA, the government gave an urgent push to Clause 6 to pacify the Assamese community.

Recommendations of the recent report

  • Headed by retired High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma the committee was asked to fast-track its report.
  • It submitted its report in Feb but the government did not make its contents public.
  • But some Assamese activists independently made the contents public.
  • Its brief was to define the “Assamese people” and suggest measures for the safeguard of their rights. The definition of “Assamese people” has been a subject of discussion for decades.

Key propositions

The committee has proposed that the following be considered Assamese people for the purpose of Clause 6. All citizens of India who are part of:

  • Assamese community, residing in the Territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • Any indigenous tribal community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • Any other indigenous community of Assam residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; or
  • All other citizens of India residing in the territory of Assam on or before January 1, 1951; and
  • Descendants of the above categories

Why 1951?

  • During the Assam agitation, the demand was for detection and deportation of migrants who had illegally entered Assam after 1951.
  • The Assam Accord, however, set the cutoff on March 24, 1971. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was updated based on this cutoff.
  • Clause 6 is meant to give the Assamese people certain safeguards, which would not be available to migrants between 1951 and 1971.
  • If the recommendation is accepted, those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens, but they won’t be eligible for safeguards meant for Assamese people”.

What are these safeguards?

Among various recommendations, the key is the reservation of seats in Parliament, Assembly and local bodies; reservation in jobs; and land rights. The panel recommends the Assamese people be given:

  • 80 to 100% reservation in the parliamentary seats of Assam, Assembly seats and local body seats be reserved for the “Assamese people”.
  • 80 to 100% of Group C and D level posts (in Assam) in central government/semi-central government/central PSUs/private sector
  • 80 to 100% of jobs under Government of Assam and state government undertakings; and 70 to 100% of vacancies arising in private partnerships
  • Land rights, with restrictions imposed on transferring land by any means to persons other than “Assamese people”.

Several other recommendations deal with language and cultural and social rights. On language, it recommends:

  • Assamese language shall continue to be official language throughout the state with provisions for use of local languages in Barak Valley, Hill Districts and the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts.
  • Mandatory provision of an Assamese language paper for recruitment in state government services with alternatives for Barak Valley districts, BTAD and Hills Districts.
  • To set up Academies for all-round development of each of the indigenous tribal languages including, Bodo, Mishing, Karbi, Dimasa, Koch-Rajbongshi, Rabha, Deuri, Tiwa, Tai and other indigenous languages.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Article 1 of the Indian Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various articles mentioned in the newsward

Mains level : Part I of the Indian Constitution

The Supreme Court has ordered that a plea to change India’s name exclusively to ‘Bharat’ be converted into a representation and forwarded to the Union government for an appropriate decision.


Whenever such articles are in news, make sure to revise entire Part. Like in this case Part I –  Articles 1, 2, 3 and 4. See the B2b section.

What is the issue?

  • The petition seeks an amendment to Article 1 of the Constitution, which says “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States…”
  • It wants ‘India’ to be struck off from the Article.

Article 1 of the Constitution

  • Article 1 in the Constitution states that India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.
  • The territory of India shall consist of: The territories of the states, The Union territories and Any territory that may be acquired in future.

The names of the States and the Unions have been described in the First Schedule. This schedule also holds that there are four Categories of State and territories – Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D.

  • Part A – includes the nine provinces which were under British India
  • Part B – princely states consisted of this category
  • Part C – centrally administered five states
  • Part D – Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Abolishing of these schedules

  • In the seventh amendment of the Constitution in 1956, the distinction between Part A and Part B states was abolished.
  • Subsequently, states were reorganized on a linguistic basis.
  • As a result, several new states were formed, eg. Haryana, Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram etc. At present, there are 28 States and 8 UTs (corrected).

Debate over name change

  • Bharat and India are both names given in the Constitution. India is already called ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution”.
  • The petition says that India is a name of foreign origin. The name can be traced back to the Greek term ‘Indica’.
  • The word ‘Bharat’ is closely associated with our Freedom Struggle as the cry was ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
  • Chauvinists argue that the name change will ensure citizens to get over the colonial past and instil a sense of pride in our nationality.

What 2016 ruling has to say?

  • The apex court had dismissed a similar petition in 2016.
  • Then CJI T.S. Thakur orally remarked that every Indian had the right to choose between calling his country ‘Bharat’ or ‘India’.
  • CJI said that the Supreme Court had no business to either dictate or decide for a citizen what he should call his country.


Article 2

  • Article 2 states that the parliament may, by law, admit new states into the Union of India or establish new states on terms and conditions it deems fit.
  • For e.g. the addition of the State of Sikkim by the 35th (1974) and 36th (1975) constitutional amendments.

Article 3

  • Article 3 empowers the parliament to form a new state by separation of a part of the territory of an established state or to unite two or more states or parts of states or by uniting any territory to a part of any state.
  • This article provides that area of any state can reduced or increased and alter the boundaries or change the name of a state.
  • Even though the state boundaries are subject to change, their area cannot be acquired by a foreign state.
  • There is also a saving clause in the article to protect the rights of the state.
  • The first condition is that no bill for the purpose can be introduced in either house except on the recommendation of the President of India.
  • Second, whether the proposal contains the alternation of the area, boundaries or name of the state mentioned, it has to refer by President to the Legislatures of concerned states, for expressing opinions.
  • Such opinion has to be expressed within a period specified by the President. In any case, the views expressed do not bind the decisions of either the President or the Parliament

Article 4

  • This article specifies that the laws provided in article 2 and 3, admission/establishment of new states and alteration of names, areas and boundaries etc. of established states, are not to be considered amendments of the Constitution under article 368.
  • It means these can be passed without resorting to any special procedure and by a simple majority.

Citizenship and Related Issues

What is Inner Line Permit (ILP) and what is its CAA context?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ILP, NRC, CAA

Mains level : Debate over CAA

The Supreme Court has declined to stay the operation of a Presidential order which petitioners claimed deprived Assam of the powers to implement the Inner Line system in its districts and limit the applicability of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Try this:

Q. The NRC fails to resolve the illegal immigration issue in Assam. Critically Analyse.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, the fumes of protests over NRC/CAA have somewhat vanished. However, one must not forget the fundamental linkages between the NPR/NRC/CAA/ILP etc.

The Inner Line

  • A concept drawn by colonial rulers, the Inner Line separated the tribal-populated hill areas in the Northeast from the plains.
  • To enter and stay for any period in these areas, Indian citizens from other areas need an Inner Line Permit (ILP).
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram are protected by the Inner Line, and lately, Manipur was added.
  • The concept originates from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFR), 1873.

Its inception

  • The policy of exclusion first came about as a response to the reckless expansion of British entrepreneurs into new lands which threatened British political relations with the hill tribes.
  • The BEFR prohibits an outsider’s — “British subject or foreign citizen” — entry into the are beyond the Inner Line without a pass and his purchase of land there.
  • On the other hand, the Inner Line also protects the commercial interests of the British from the tribal communities.
  • After Independence, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”.
  • Today, the main aim of the ILP system is to prevent settlement of other Indian nationals in the States where the ILP regime is prevalent, in order to protect the indigenous/tribal population.

How is it connected to the Citizenship Amendment Act?

  • The CAA, which relaxes eligibility criteria for certain categories of migrants from three countries seeking Indian citizenship, exempts certain categories of areas, including those protected by the Inner Line system.
  • Amid protests against the Act, the Adaptation of Laws (Amendment) Order, 2019, issued by the President, amended the BEFR, 1873, extending it to Manipur and parts of Nagaland that were not earlier protected by ILP.

What is the petition now?

  • The petition was against the Presidential order. It said the order took away the Assam government’s permissive power to implement the ILP.
  • This could have made the CAA inapplicable in these areas, the petition said.
  • The CAA has given fresh legs to the demand.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Visa Issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OCI, PIO

Mains level : Citizenship related issues of Indian Diaspora

In a bid to allay fears of the OCI cardholders over the temporary suspension of their long-term visas, the Ministry for External Affairs has said the government will soon take an appropriate decision.

UPSC may ask a statement based question in prelims considering various privileges of the OCI cardholders.

What is the issue?

  • A large number of Indian citizens whose children are OCI cardholders and several people of Indian-origin having the card are unable to travel to India, even for emergency reasons, because of the temporary suspension of their long-term visa.

Who is an Overseas Citizen?

  • An OCI is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015 when the government merged these two categories.
  • The MHA defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Privileges to an OCI

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card.
  • However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.


Explained: How an Indian citizen is defined

Citizenship and Related Issues

Defining Anti-national Activities


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various FRs not available to Foreigners

Mains level : Read the attached story

Ever since the anti-CAA protests erupted across the country, the MHA has been quite active in filtering out foreigners among the protesters and serving them with ‘Leave India’ notices’.

What contributes to ‘Anti-government’ activities?

  • According to visa guidelines laid out by the MHA, Foreign nationals shall be required to strictly adhere to the purpose of visit declared while submitting the visa application.
  • However, a foreign national (other than a Pakistani national) coming to India on any type of visa will be allowed to avail activities permitted under tourist visa.
  • However, there are no provisions specified under “anti-government” activities subhead.
  • The absence of any such provision in visa laws or Foreigner’s Act makes it necessary for the government to define “anti-government” activities under a statute.
  • Visa laws are not in any derogation with any other law, so inferences can be drawn — which means a court can rule that whatever are defined as “anti-government” activities for Indian national is “anti-government” for foreign national too.”

What do ‘anti-government’ activities mean for an Indian national?

  • According to the lawyers, anti-government activities are those which are listed as punishable under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section 124A IPC deals with attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India.
  • Such offences shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.

Does a foreigner on Indian visa have a right to protest?

  • Right to protest peacefully is enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression.
  • Article (19)(b) guarantees the citizens of the country the right to assemble peacefully and without arms.
  • Since Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality to any person before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, foreigners also have the right to protest peacefully, argue proponents.
  • However, the act done by the foreigner must not be anything in contravention to the existing laws of India.
  • Being a part of a peaceful protest isn’t illegal and thus, being a part of it isn’t anything wrong even if that is against the Indian government, critic says.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Rights, duties and the Constitution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Conflating duties and rights and its consequences.


At an International Judicial Conference 2020 this weekend, the Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, drew attention to the Constitution’s Fundamental Duties chapter.

The logic of duties

  • Wide range of duties: The first thing to note is that as citizens, there exists a wide range of duties that bind us in everyday life.
    • Duties towards the state and individual: These duties are owed both to the state and to other individuals.
  • Legal duties: We have a legal duty to pay our taxes, to refrain from committing violence against our fellow-citizens, and to follow other laws that Parliament has enacted.
    • Breach of these legal duties triggers financial consequences (fines), or even time in jail.
  • Following the duties is price for living in the society: At any given time, therefore, we are already following a host of duties, which guide and constrain how we may behave.
    • This is the price that must be paid for living in society, and it is a price that nobody, at least, in principle, objects to paying.
  • Self-contained whole: Our duties and the consequences we bear for failing to keep them, therefore, exist as a self-contained whole.
    • Co-existence and sacrifice: The peaceful co-existence requires a degree of self-sacrifice, and that if necessary, this must be enforced through the set of sanctions.

The logic of rights

  • Understanding the logic through history: Rights, on the other hand, follow a different logic entirely. This is a logic that is best understood through history.
    • Two concerns: At the time of the framing of the Indian Constitution and its chapter on Fundamental Rights, there were two important concerns animating the Constituent Assembly.
    • Treatment as subjects: The first was that under the colonial regime, Indians had been treated as subjects.
    • Their interests did not count, their voices were unheard, and in some cases — for example, the “Criminal Tribes”- they were treated as less than human.
    • Holocaust example: Apart from the long and brutal history of colonialism, the framers also had before them the recent example of the Holocaust, where the dignity of more than six million people had been stripped before their eventual genocide.
  • The first role of fundamental rights chapter: To stand as a bulwark against dehumanisation.
    • Dignity and equality guaranteed: Every human being no matter who they were or what they did had a claim to basic dignity and equality that no state could take away, no matter what the provocation.
    • Unconditional right: One did not have to successfully perform any duty, or meet a threshold of worthiness, to qualify as a rights bearer. It was simply what it meant to be human.
  • Second role of the fundamental rights: To stand against the hierarchy.
    • Removing the subordination and degradation: The axes of gender, caste and religion had all served to keep masses of individuals in permanent conditions of subordination and degradation.
    • Equalising and democratising: Through guarantees against-
    • Forced labour.
    • Against “untouchability”.
    • Against discriminatory access to public spaces, and others.
    • Fundamental rights were meant to play an equalising and democratising role throughout society, and to protect individuals against the depredations visited on them by their fellow human beings.
  • Significance of the above two roles
    • Transformative purpose: The twin principles of anti-dehumanisation and anti-hierarchy reveal the transformative purpose of the fundamental rights chapter.
    • The recognition that true democracy could not exist without ensuring that at a basic level, the dignity and equality of individuals were protected, both from the state as well as from social majorities.
    • Rise from subject to citizen: It was only with these guarantees could an individual rise from the status of subject to that of the citizen.
    • And, as should be clear by now, it was only after that transformation had been wrought, that the question of duties could even arise.
  • Importance of the language of the duty:
    • The language of duties can play an important role in a society that continues to be divided and unequal.
    • In such a society, those who possess or benefit from entrenched structural and institutional power (starting with the state, and going downwards) certainly have a “duty” not to use that power to the detriment of those upon whom they wield it.
    • That is precisely what the guarantees against “untouchability”, forced labour, and discriminatory access in the Constitution seek to accomplish.

Issue of conflating duties and rights

  • The problem lies in the conflation of rights and duties.
  • In that context, it is always critical to remember Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly (which were also cited by the CJI in his speech): that the fundamental unit of the Constitution remains the individual.
  • If the position of the individual and the Constitution’s commitment to combating hierarchy is kept in mind, then the language of duties can be understood in its proper context.
  • Chances of duties leading to unpleasant consequences: Without the moral compass of rights and their place in the transformative Constitutional scheme the language of duties can lead to unpleasant consequences.
    • It can end up entrenching existing power structures by placing the burden of “duties” upon those that are already vulnerable and marginalised.
  • The constitution is about rights: It is for this reason that, at the end of the day, the Constitution, a charter of liberation, is fundamentally about rights.


It is only after guarantee to all the full sum of humanity, dignity, equality, and freedom promised by the Constitution, that we can ask of them to do their duty. Perhaps, then, it is time to update Hind Swaraj for the constitutional age: “real duties are the result of the fulfilment of rights”.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Enemy Property in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Enemy Property in India

Mains level : Disposal of such Enemy Property

  • A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Union Home Minister will monitor the disposal of over 9,400 enemy properties, which the government estimates is worth about Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • Two committees headed by senior officials will be set up for the disposal of immovable enemy properties vested in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India under The Enemy Property Act.

What is “Enemy Property”?

  • In the wake of the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, there was migration of people from India to Pakistan.
  • Under the Defence of India Rules framed under The Defence of India Act, 1962, the Government of India took over the properties and companies of those who took Pakistani nationality.
  • These “enemy properties” were vested by the central government in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
  • The same was done for property left behind by those who went to China after the 1962 Sino-Indian war.
  • The Tashkent Declaration of January 10, 1966 included a clause that said India and Pakistan would discuss the return of the property and assets taken over by either side in connection with the conflict.
  • However, the Government of Pakistan disposed of all such properties in their country in the year 1971 itself.

How did India deal with enemy property?

  • The Enemy Property Act, enacted in 1968, provided for the continuous vesting of enemy property in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India.
  • The central government, through the Custodian, is in possession of enemy properties spread across many states in the country.
  • Some movable properties too, are categorised as enemy properties.
  • In 2017, Parliament passed The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016, which amended The Enemy Property Act, 1968, and The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

Who is an Enemy?

  • The amended Act expanded the definition of the term “enemy subject”, and “enemy firm” to include the legal heir and successor of an enemy, whether a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy; and the succeeding firm of an enemy firm, irrespective of the nationality of its members or partners.
  • The amended law provided that enemy property shall continue to vest in the Custodian even if the enemy or enemy subject or enemy firm ceases to be an enemy due to death, extinction, winding up of business or change of nationality, or that the legal heir or successor is a citizen of India or a citizen of a country which is not an enemy.
  • The Custodian, with prior approval of the central government, may dispose of enemy properties vested in him in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the government may issue directions to the Custodian for this purpose.

Why were these amendments brought?

  • The thrust of the amendments was to guard against claims of succession or transfer of properties left by people who migrated to Pakistan and China after the wars.
  • The amendments denied legal heirs any right over enemy property. The main aim was to negate the effect of a court judgment in this regard.

What did these court orders say?

  • One major judgment was passed in the case of the estate of the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad, who owned several large properties in Hazratganj, Sitapur and Nainital.
  • Following Partition, the Raja left for Iraq and stayed there for some years before settling in London.
  • After The Enemy Property Act was enacted in the year 1968, the Raja’s estate was declared enemy property. When the Raja died, his son who stayed in India staked claim to the properties.
  • After a legal battle that lasted over 30 years, an apex court Bench on October 21, 2005, ruled in favour of the son.
  • The verdict opened the floodgates for further pleas in courts across the country in which genuine or purported relatives of persons who had migrated to Pakistan produced deeds of gift claiming they were the rightful owners of enemy properties.
  • On July 2, 2010, the then UPA government promulgated an Ordinance that restrained courts from ordering the government to divest enemy properties from the Custodian.
  • The 2005 SC order was thus rendered ineffective, and the Custodian again took over the Raja’s properties.

Enactment of the Amended Law

  • A Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 22, 2010, and subsequently, a revised Bill was tabled on November 15, 2010. This Bill was thereafter referred to the Standing Committee.
  • However, the said Bill could not be passed during the term of the 15th Lok Sabha, and it lapsed.
  • On January 7, 2016, the President of India promulgated The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Ordinance, 2016, which was replaced by the Bill that became law in 2017.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Indian Origin Tamils and Sri Lanka’s Citizenship Law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IOT

Mains level : Citizenship issues of Indian origin Tamils in Sri Lanka

Recently an MHA spokesperson wrote on Twitter that about 4.61 lakh Tamils of Indian origin were given Indian citizenship during 1964-2008. The reference was to the Indian Origin Tamils (IOTs) of Sri Lanka, and the Lal Bahadur Shastri-Sirimavo Bandaranaike Pact of 1964.

The Indian Origin Tamils

  • Different from Sri Lankan Tamils who live predominantly in the North and East, the IoTs are descendants of indentured Tamil workers.
  • The British had shipped them to the island in the mid 19th century to work on tea estates in the five hill districts of the Central and Uva provinces.
  • These people now call themselves Malayaha (hill country) Tamils — because of the historical stigma attached to being “Indian” Tamils.
  • At the time of Sri Lanka’s independence, the IOTs numbered around 800,000.
  • They were the backbone of the tea industry, politically active, and keen to ensure their rights in independent Sri Lanka through strategic alliances with unions and left parties.
  • Determined to blunt their political rights, the ruling parties described IOTs as “birds of passage” with no loyalty to the country, as India’s fifth column in Sri Lanka, and as people who stole the locals’ jobs.

SL’s 1948 Citizenship Act

  • Sri Lanka’s Nov. 1948 Citizenship Act was the first in a series of divisive moves by the Sinhala rulers to consolidate their political base in the majority Sinhalese (Buddhist and Christian) community.
  • It was aimed at excluding IOTs — then as now, the predominant workforce in the upcountry tea estates — whose numbers and growing association with leftist parties were proving to be politically inconvenient.
  • The IOTs that India accepted through the 1964 agreement were not “fleeing” Sri Lanka.
  • Most were, in fact, reluctant to leave the country in which they had lived for three generations or longer.
  • Those that remained, were stateless in Sri Lanka for decades until their status as citizens was settled ironically because the ruling party now wanted their votes.

What did the Act provide?

  • Under the Act, citizenship could be only by patrilineal descent or registration.
  • For citizenship by registration, umarried persons had to show 10 years of uninterrupted stay in Sri Lanka from the date of application; married persons had to show 7 years.
  • Most IOTs were unlettered and poor, with no documents. Effectively an entire community was rendered stateless.
  • Soon afterward came the Indian & Pakistani Residents’ Act of 1949, which opened a window for those above a certain income level.
  • Only 1,40,000 had been granted citizenship under the Indian & Pakistani Residents’ Act, and 2,50,000 were accepted by India as its citizens.
  • Finally, the 1949 Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment was passed, under which only citizens could vote.
  • The IOTs were stripped of voting rights, and the fallout was immediate: in 1947, there were 7 Indian Tamils in the legislature; in 1952, there were none.

Issues with the Act

  • This Act sharply delineated ethnic differences, and distorted the political system to weight it in favour the Sinhalese majority.
  • This created an intractable dynamic of ethnic outbidding between the two major Sinhalese-dominated parties to attract Sinhalese voters at the expense of the Sri Lankan Tamil minority.
  • This directly contributed to the latter’s alienation, support for secessionism, and the outbreak of ethnic violence and civil war in the 1970s and 1980s.

India’s response

  • The treatment of Indian Tamils had cast a shadow on India-Sri Lanka relations even before independence; post-independence, the citizenship laws became a major irritant.
  • They were denounced in India, and the Madras legislature passed a resolution against them.
  • In 1947, PM Nehru had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Senanayake to give citizenship to all Indian Tamils who had lived in the country for 7 years prior to January 1, 1948.
  • The two countries corresponded on this issue until Nehru’s death in 1964.
  • Nehru rejected the Sri Lankan position that the “stateless” IOTs were automatically Indian citizens, and would have to be shipped to India.

Repatriation of IOTs

  • After the 1962 war with China, PM Shastri was eager to mend fences with Sri Lanka. He gave in to Bandaranaike’s demands, and it was agreed that Sri Lanka would accept 3,00,000 IOTs and their natural increase, while India would accept 5,25,000 IOTs and their natural increase.
  • The status of the balance 1,50,000 IOTs was to be decided later.
  • Some 4,00,000 reluctantly applied for citizenship of India; 6,30,000 applied for Sri Lanka’s.
  • By the time the window agreed upon in 1964 closed, only 1,62,000 IOTs had been given Sri Lankan citizenship. In the same period, India gave citizenship to over 3,50,000.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Article 131, on which Kerala has based its challenge to the CAA


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Art. 131, 32, 226

Mains level : Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Courts

  • The Kerala government moved the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act becoming the first state to challenge the law.
  • It filed a petition under Article 131 of the Constitution and asked for the law to be declared unconstitutional and in violation of Articles 14 (equality before law), 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) and 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion).

What is Article 131 of the Constitution?

  • The Article vests the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over disputes occurring between states or between states and the Centre.
  • The original jurisdiction of a court means the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, in which the court reviews the decision of a lower court.
  • Unlike the original jurisdiction under Article 32 (which gives the top court the power to issue writs, etc.), the jurisdiction in Article 131 is exclusive, meaning it is only the Supreme Court which has this authority.
  • Under Article 226, the High Courts too have the power to issue writs, directions etc.

Original jurisdiction

  • Article 131 reads, “Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. — Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute —

(a) between the Government of India and one or more States; or
(b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
(c) between two or more States,
if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends:

  • The said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad, or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution.
  • However they continue in operation after such commencement, or which provides, that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute.

What kinds of disputes are covered under Article 131?

  • In ‘State of Rajasthan vs Union of India’, 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that the existence or extent of a legal right is a precursor before a suit under Article 131 is entertained. But mere wrangles between governments have no place in the scheme of that Article.
  • Similarly, in the 1978 case, ‘State of Karnataka vs Union of India’, which involved the Centre’s authority to order an inquiry into a state Chief Minister’s conduct, jurisdiction under Article 131 was held valid.
  • In the present case filed by Kerala, central legislation (CAA) is being challenged. In 2011, a two-judge Supreme Court Bench in ‘Madhya Pradesh v Union of India’ had held such a suit was not maintainable.
  • Later in 2013, another two-judge Bench in ‘State of Jharkhand v State of Bihar and Another’ disagreed with the previous verdict and referred the matter to a larger Bench. Kerala’s plaint relies on the 2013 verdict.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Doctrine of ‘Presumption of Constitutionality’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Doctrine of ‘Presumption of Constitutionality’

Mains level : Read the attached story

Recently the Supreme Court declined urgent hearing on a plea seeking to declare the CAA as constitutional and said that there was already a “presumption of constitutionality” to a law passed by Parliament.  CJI has said that the court’s role was to examine the validity, and not declare a law constitutional.

Doctrine of Presumption of Constitutionality

  • The term ‘presumption of constitutionality’ is a legal principle that is used by courts during statutory interpretation — the process by which courts interpret and apply a law passed by the legislature, such as Parliament.
  • In the 1992 Supreme Court case ‘ML Kamra v New India Assurance’, Justice K Ramaswamy said: “The court ought not to interpret the statutory provisions, unless compelled by their language, in such a manner as would involve its unconstitutionality.
  • The legislature of the rule making authority is presumed to enact a law which does not contravene or violate the constitutional provisions.
  • Therefore, there is a presumption in favour of constitutionality of a legislation or statutory rule unless ex facie it violates the fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution.
  • If the provisions of a law or the rule is construed in such a way as would make it consistent with the Constitution and another interpretation would render the provision or the rule unconstitutional, the Court would lean in favour of the former construction. ” (“ex facie” meaning ‘on the face’)

When does this apply?

  • It is a cardinal principle of construction that the Statute and the Rule or the Regulation must be held to be constitutionally valid unless and until it is established they violate any specific provision of the Constitution.
  • Further it is the duty of the Court to harmoniously construe different provisions of any Act or Rule or Regulation, if possible, and to sustain the same rather than striking down the provisions out right.
  • The presumption is not absolute, however, and does not stand when there is a gross violation of the Constitution.

Limitations to the doctrine

  • A three-judge Bench in ‘NDMC v State of Punjab’ (1996) spoke of the limitations to the doctrine.
  • The Bench observed that the Doctrine is not one of infinite application; it has recognised limitations.
  • The Court has consistently followed a policy of not putting an unnatural and forced meaning on the words that have been used by the legislature in the search for an interpretation which would save the statutory provisions.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The Indian Constitution’s unitary tilt


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-The Constitution in favour of strong Centre


The Centre-State conflict over CAA, and the Constitutional obligation on the state to implement the laws made by the Parliament, has once again brought to the fore the fault lines in the Indian federalism.

The opposition of the States to the Central law

  • Several state governments have declared that they would not implement the CAA.
  • Legislative Assembly of Kerala passed the resolution stating that the law contradicts the basic values.
  • The resolution is only symbolic.
  • Passage of such a resolution is not constitutionally barred.
  • But it may not be in tune with the federal scheme under the Constitution.

What are the obligations on the States?

  • Article 256 obligates the State governments to ensure the implementation of the laws made by Parliament.
  • The Centre may give such direction as may appear to be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament.
  • The refusal to enforce the law even after the Centre issues direction would empower the President to impose the President’s Rule in the State.
  • Neither the refusal to implement not the official protests registered by the States carry much legal force.
  • The Calcutta High Court directed the state government to remove anti-CAA advertisements from the website.
  • The High Court barred the state from campaigning against a parliamentary law.

The diminishing role of the Opposition

  • The parliament has been reduced to a site for procedural formalities.
  • There is a poor understanding of the role of the parliamentary Opposition in Indian politics.
  • Once the elections are over the Opposition is expected not to meddle in the governance.
  • The absence of Leader of Opposition in the Parliament for the last 6 years manifests this attitude.
  • Further, in the absence of the Opposition showing any resilience, national politics seems to be operating without a credible political check.

The unitary tilt of the Constitution

  • Single-party dominance at the Centre has always revealed the tendency of our Constitution to concentrate the power.
  • The concentration of power is embedded in the very structure of the Constitution.
  • A ‘centrist bias’ of the Constitution further augments the power of single-party dominance.
  • Against the backdrop of the fissiparous tendencies in the backdrop of partition, it was justified for the founders to be hesitant in favour of stronger federalism.

The rise of Electoral federalism

  • Change in voting patterns.
  • Over the last couple of years, there is huge vote swings between national and State elections in the same constituencies and separated by only a few months.
  • In other words, federalism is not a mere legal division of power, the democracy and voters too are becoming federal.
  • This embrace of electoral federalism may be one of the most significant achievements of Indian democracy.
  • Hence, parties that lose in national elections can still win State elections and form governments.
  • The State governments are thus filling the opposition deficit at the Centre.
  • This shift of opposition from Delhi to State capitals is likely to become the politics over federalism.


  • The conflict that CAA triggered might become a template for future contestations over the federal question, while the politics seem to be ripe for the advancement of federalism.


Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap]Secularism’s Brexit moment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 1-Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism and secularism.



In India, the debate on the issue of secularism needs to be based on a more principled and practical basis.

Change in public discourse

  • Popular skepticism of secularism has been growing these days.
  • Secularism is being increasingly discounted not only by the hardliners but also by the moderate middle.
  • It is no longer taboo to raise questions that were formerly the preserve of the fringe.
  • Today, democracy is taken for granted by all the Indians. No one raises questions over its utility.
  • Secularism need to be elevated to the same level as is the democracy today, where no one raises the question on its utility.

What are the issues with the defenders of secularism?

  • Rather than make case for secularism, its champions indulge in name-calling and citing the example from the past to tarnish and shut down critics.
  • They also cite the Constitution in their support-without realising that it is this very document’s secular thrust that has became suspect.
  • They also assume the obvious correctness of their cosmopolitan worldview.

What changes need to be made?

  • They must make a case for secularism anew-principled and practical.
  • On principled basis-individual equality, freedom of conscience and personal habits.
  • On a practical basis-no country can flourish by degrading their minority.
  • They must stress the India’s plurality and “live and let live” culture, syncretic traditions and long history of respect and accommodation of differences.
  • They also need to show some humility.
  • They also have to show openness to fair-minded criticism.


These suggestions are urgently needed to be followed by those arguing in the defence of secularism otherwise there is a very real possibility of a large section of a society losing faith in secularism. In this anxious hours India needs to engage in open and self-critical debate-rather than polarising polemic.




Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Preamble to the Constitution of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Preamble

Mains level : Preamble: It features, significance and amendments

In the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, many have held up the Preamble as reflective of the essence of the Constitution of India for Secularism.


  • The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out guidelines, which guide the people of the nation, and to present the principles of the Constitution, and to indicate the source from which the document derives its authority, and meaning.
  • The hopes and aspirations of the people are described in it.
  • The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.
  • It was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly and came into effect on 26 January 1950, celebrated as the Republic day in India.

Resolution and discussion

  • The Preamble is based on the Objective Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946.
  • The Resolution was adopted on January 22, 1947.
  • On October 17, 1949, the Constituent Assembly presided by Rajendra Prasad took up the Preamble for discussion.

The heart and soul

  • In the Berubari Case (1960) Supreme Court held the view that Preamble cannot be a part of the constitution but later in Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973), the Supreme Court gave a comprehensive verdict.
  • It said that Preamble is part of the Constitution and is subject to the amending power of the parliament as are any other provisions of the Constitution, provided the basic structure of the Constitution is not destroyed.
  • It has been clarified by the Supreme Court that being a part of the Constitution, the Preamble can be subjected to Constitutional Amendments exercised under article 368, however, the basic structure cannot be altered.
  • Therefore it is considered as the heart and soul of the Constitution.


  • The original Preamble, adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1949, declared India a “Sovereign Democratic Republic”.
  • By the 42nd Amendment of 1976, enacted during the Emergency, the words “Socialist” and “Secular” were inserted; the Preamble now reads “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Fuel to the fire: On Cabinet announcement on NPR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR

Mains level : NPR - NRC - CAA


The Union Cabinet announced that the National Population Register (NPR) would be updated across the country, barring Assam, at an expense of over ₹3,941.35 crores.

What it means

  • It would have been considered a routine administrative measure but for the concerns among the public about the government’s intentions. 
  • The announcement on the NPR came amid continuing protests against the recent Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, in many parts of the country.
  • There is also a lingering uncertainty regarding the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). 

What government says

  • Prime Minister said that the NRIC had not been discussed in the government, but that did not mean that it would not be taken up. 
  • His assurance that no Indian of any religion will be adversely affected by the controversial CAA rings hollow when the government has not cleared the air that it has no plans for an elaborate plan to tabulate citizens. 


  • The NRC, as it was rolled out in Assam, puts the burden of proof on citizens to establish that they are indeed citizens. 
  • The undocumented and the poor will bear the brunt of this approach. 
  • The proposed format for enumerating the NPR only exacerbates this concern. It adds a third axis to the ongoing confusion and turmoil.


  • The NPR is not about citizenship but only about residency. 
  • When additional questions such as “place of birth of father and mother”, etc are being proposed for the forthcoming exercise, the concern that this may be a prelude to the NRIC is logical.
  • It is nobody’s argument that the state should not enumerate the population or collect data on the people. 

Problem with the actions

  • Never in the past did the prospects of a religious test for citizenship appear even remotely in this country. 
  • In 2014, the BJP election manifesto explicitly stated that India was a natural homeland for “persecuted Hindus”. 
  • The government made the now-familiar, and extremely problematic, the distinction between “infiltrators” and “refugees”. 
  • With the passage of the CAA and the announcement of the NRIC, there is the factual basis for doubting the government’s claim that the NPR has nothing to do with the NRIC.

Way ahead

  • In the current climate of panic among a significant section of the country’s poor and the Muslim minorities, the government must speak up to bolster their confidence in India’s constitutional democracy. 
  • Equivocation, and polarising grandstanding on the CAA, the NRIC, and NPR, may yield political dividends for the government but at a very high cost to the nation.

Citizenship and Related Issues

National Population Register (NPR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR, NRC, Census

Mains level : Debate over CAA


The Union Cabinet has approved a proposal to conduct Census 2021 and update the National Population Register (NPR). While the Census will be conducted in 2021, the NPR update will take place from April to September 2020 in all the States/UTs except Assam.

This has sparked debate another debate about privacy. The NPR intends to collect many details of personal data on residents.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  • It includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen.
  • The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
  • The first NPR was prepared in 2010 and updating this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.
  • The next update of the NPR will take place next year from April to September with the Houselisting phase of the Census 2021.
  • It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

What is the meaning of usual resident?

  • According to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, a usual resident is a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

What is the Census?

  • The Census is the enumeration of the population of the country.
  • It is being conducted at an interval of 10 years.
  • The Census 2021 will be 16th census in the country since the first census happened in 1872. However, it will be 8th census after the Independence.
  • For the first time, the Census 2021 will use the Mobile App for data collection. It will also provide a facility to the public for self-enumeration.

What is the difference between NPR and NRC?

  • The NPR is different from the National Register of Citizens which excludes the foreign citizens.
  • According to the Citizenship Rules 2003, a Population Register is ‘the register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area.
  • Whereas, the ‘National Register of Indian Citizens’ is a register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India.

What is the link between NPR and NRC?

  • The Citizenship Act empowers the government to compulsorily register every citizen and maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens. A nationwide NRC — if undertaken — would flow out of NPR.
  • This does not necessarily mean that an NRC must follow NPR — no such register was compiled after the previous NPR in 2010.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC — if it happens — could go about verifying the citizens from that list.

Issues with the states

  • Citizenship, aliens and naturalization are subject matters listed in List 1 of the Seventh Schedule that fall exclusively under the domain of Parliament.
  • Legally, the states have no say in implementing or ruling out NPR.
  • However, given that the manpower is drawn from the states, the defiance could potentially result in a showdown.

MHA’s clarification

  • It issued a statement denying any proposal to conduct a nationwide NRC based on the NPR data.
  • The NPR is among a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more that Home Minister Shah said he would like to see combined into one card.

Citizenship and Related Issues

In news: Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : OCI, PIO

Mains level : Indian diaspora

Over the past few months, many OCI cardholders have faced similar issues and have had to cancel their trips to India.  After receiving a flood of complaints the Ministry of External Affairs had announced a relaxation in the rules earlier this month.

Why in news?

  • As per the MEA rules, an OCI card needs to be re-issued every time a passport is renewed by cardholders below the age of 20 years and those who have completed the age of 50 years.
  • Cardholders between 21 and 50 years of age who acquire a new passport do not need to get their OCI card re-issued.
  • The guidelines have been in force since 2005, as per the MEA.
  • In the past several months, many OCI holders complained of being subjected to harassment by immigration authorities as well as airline officials over the rule, which had not been enforced so far.

Who is an OCI?

  • An OCI, is a category introduced by the government in 2005.
  • Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain categories as specified in the Citizenship Act, 1955 are eligible for being OCI cardholders.
  • Some of the benefits for PIO and OCI cardholders were different until 2015, when the government merged these two categories.
  • The MHA defines an OCI as a person who was a citizen of India on or after January 26, 1950; or was eligible to become a citizen of India on that date; or who is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Privileges to an OCI

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) no matter how long their stay.
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, they can buy non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a driver’s license and PAN card.
  • However, OCI cardholders do not get voting rights, cannot hold a government job and purchase agricultural or farm land.
  • They cannot run for public office either, nor can they travel to restricted areas without government permission.

MEA relaxation

  • Subsequently MEA has allowed OCI cardholders, either below 20 years or above 50 years of age and who had renewed their passports, to continue their travel to India till June 30, subject to them carrying both the old and new passports along with the OCI card.
  • After June 30, they will have to get new OCI cards.
  • Previously, OCI holders also had to get a ‘U’ visa sticker on their passports, but the MEA later dispensed with the requirement.
  • According to the website of the Bureau of Immigration, OCI cardholders are now given immigration clearance on the strength of their valid foreign passport and OCI card.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Safeguarding constitutional morality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Preserving constitutional values


On the occasion of Constitution Day, the President has made a significant observation that all three organs of the state, persons occupying constitutional posts, civil society members, and citizens should abide by ‘constitutional morality’.

Across the world

  • Democracy – Concerns about the future of democracy and democratic traditions are growing across the world.
  • Freedoms – In a few democracies, we can also perceive a decrease in democratic freedoms and a trend in favor of illiberal populism. 

Indian constitution

  • India was considered an exception to this, as it is protected by safeguards found in its Constitution.
  • Constituent Assembly consisted of not only the best legal minds but also of compassionate individuals who espoused the finest human values.

Violations of the constitution

  • Diluting Article 370 – it was a provision made in the Constitution for a specific purpose, which required more detailed and careful treatment before being peremptorily invalidated.
  • Federal system – while the Indian Constitution provides for a federal system with a unitary bias, the Central and State Governments both derive their authority from the Constitution. The states are not exactly subordinate to the Centre. 
  • J&K – Splitting Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union Territories, without due consultation with different segments ran contrary to this essential principle. It violated the spirit of the Constitution.


  • Though secularism is becoming an ugly word today in many parts of the globe, India was free of any such bias.
  • Some of these biases are beginning to emerge in many circles in India as well.
  • In the Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case (1973), the Supreme Court held that secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be trifled with in the name of security or other considerations.

Drama in Maharashtra

  • The drama enacted after the Maharashtra State Assembly results were announced could have been avoided if constitutional proprieties were adhered to. 
  • The pre-election alliance of the BJP-Shiv Sena had secured a majority. But the inability of the two allies to resolve issues relating to sharing of power led to a breakdown. 
  • President’s rule had to be invoked. After a compromise was reached between the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to form a government, the President’s rule was revoked using the Prime Minister’s ‘special powers’, and a BJP-led government was sworn in.
  • Horse trading – The State also witnessed incidents such as sequestering of MLAs who were taken to safe havens to avoid poaching in the event of a trial of strength. 
  • Constitution – the provisions of the Constitution and the position of constitutional functionaries had been compromised.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)

  • Easy for refugees – On the face of it, the CAA only makes it easier for refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to gain Indian citizenship. 
  • Exclusion – it excludes certain categories, such as Muslims. This denies people belonging to one particular religion recourse to the new law.
  • Violates liberal ideals – the CAA violates India’s liberal traditions. When combined with the move to compile a National Register of Citizens, it carries an ominous ring. 
  • Parliament passage – the Bill passed through both Houses without any detailed debate or discussion. It gives the impression that a majority in Parliament is adequate to push through Acts which may or may not be in tune with the Constitution.
  • Indian democracy – as India is a many-layered democracy and there exist different religious communities, a more detailed and in-depth study was called for before pushing through such a key measure. 

A study was needed

  • As the Constitution has been the guarantor of equal treatment to people of all religions and regions irrespective of geography and history, refugees’ issues called for greater understanding and more time.
  • India has been grappling with several more critical issues in recent months, including the state of its economy. To raise this matter at this time seemed uncalled for.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: What connects the NPR, NRC and Census?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR, NRC, Census

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Protests are widespread all across the country against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the proposed NRC.
  • Meanwhile few states such as West Bengal and Kerala suspended work related to the preparation and update of the National Population Register (NPR) in their respective States.
  • The NPR, a register of residents of the country with demographic and biometric details, was supposed to be prepared between April 2020 and September 2020 ahead of the Census slated for 2021.
  • Preliminary work on the NPR has already begun in several States.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a database containing a list of all usual residents of the country.Its objective is to have a comprehensive identity database of people residing in the country.
  • It is generated through house-to-house enumeration during the “house-listing” phase of the census, which is held once in 10 years.
  • A usual resident for the purposes of NPR is a person who has resided in a place for six months or more, and intends to reside there for another six months or more.
  • Once the basic details of the head of the family are taken by the enumerator, an acknowledgement slip will be issued. This slip may be required for enrolment in NPR, whenever that process begins.
  • And, once the details are recorded in every local (village or ward), sub-district (tehsil or taluk), district and State level, there will be a population register at each of these levels.
  • Together, they constitute the National Population Register.

Why NPR is under fire?

  • Various groups have been protesting against the compilation of the NPR alleging that it had nothing to with the Census, but the “first step to initiate the NRC”.

How NPR is different from Census?

  • The census involves a detailed questionnaire — there were 29 items to be filled up in the 2011 census — aimed at eliciting the particulars of every person, including age, sex, marital status, children, occupation, birthplace, mother tongue, religion, disability and whether they belonged to any SC or ST.
  • On the other hand, the NPR collects basic demographic data and biometric particulars.
  • While the census is legally backed by the Census Act, 1948, the NPR is a mechanism outlined in a set of rules framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

What is the legal basis for the NPR?

  • Section 14A was inserted in the Citizenship Act, 1955, in 2004, providing for the compulsory registration of every citizen of India and the issue of a “national identity card” to him or her.
  • It also said the Central government may maintain a “National Register of Indian Citizens”.
  • The Registrar General India shall act as the “National Registration Authority” (and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration). Incidentally, the Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.
  • The NPR is the first step towards establishing the NRIC.

Is there any link between the NPR and Aadhaar?

  • Better targeting and delivery of benefits and services under the government was one of the early objectives of the NPR.
  • During the early days of the NPR enrolment, under the UPA regime, the UIDAI scheme for issuance of Aadhaar numbers was also concurrently on.
  • There was a conflict between the Union Home Ministry, which administers the NPR, and UIDAI, leaving the impression that there was duplication of work, as both involved gathering personal particulars, including biometric data.
  • Ultimately, they agreed that both databases will exist with different objectives, and that each will use the other’s biometric data.
  • Those already enrolled for Aadhaar need not give their biometric details again during NPR.
  • At the same time, data captured for NPR would be sent to UIDAI for “de-duplication”.
  • In case of discrepancy between Aadhaar and NPR data, the latter would prevail. The present regime decided to update the NPR originally created after the 2011 Census.

How are NRIC and NPR related?

  • Out of the NPR, a set of all usual residents of India, the government proposes to create a database of “citizens of India”.
  • Thus, the “National Register of Indian Citizens” (NRIC) is a sub-set of the NPR.
  • The NRIC will be prepared at the local, sub-district, district and State levels after verifying the citizenship status of the residents.
  • The rules say the particulars of every family and individual found in the Population Register shall be verified and scrutinized by the Local Registrar.

Is the NRIC complete after this step?

  • A draft of the Local Register of Indian Citizens shall be published to invite objections or claims for inclusion or corrections.
  • Any objection or request for inclusion must be made within 30 days of the publication of the draft. The sub-district or taluk registrar shall summarily dispose of the objections within 90 days.
  • Thereafter, the entries in the Local Register will be transferred to the National Registrar.
  • Any person aggrieved by an exclusion order can appeal to the District Registrar within 30 days, and the appeal should be disposed of within 90 days.
  • In case, the appeal succeeds, the names of those concerned would be added to the NRIC.

Many State governments have said the NPR would not be implemented. Is this possible?

  • As of now, this is a political decision. Kerala and West Bengal have put on hold activities related to NPR work.
  • Most State governments would have, by now, re-issued a Central government notification on the initiation of work to update the NPR.
  • As the house-to-house enumeration is a part of the Census operation, it is unlikely that the NPR process can go ahead without State governments agreeing to deploy their staff for the purpose.
  • The legal position is that while the Centre is in charge of the census, the State governments are expected to provide staff whenever required.
  • In practical terms, it may not be possible for the process to be undertaken without the State government’s cooperation at the local level.

What is the relationship between the NPR and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?

  • There is no direct link. But remarks by the Home Minister that the CAA would be followed by the NRC have given rise to fears.
  • People fear that when they are excluded from the final citizenship register, the CAA may help non-Muslims take the CAA route to apply for citizenship, and leave Muslims with no option.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and their citizenships


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Read the attached story

The exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils figured prominently in the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill has handed the opposition in Tamil Nadu a stick to beat the ruling party in the state.

Tamil refugees

  • About 1 lakh Tamils from Sri Lanka live in India, including some 60,000 in camps across Tamil Nadu.
  • These refugees are mostly Hindu, and are of both Sri Lankan and Indian origin.
  • Some 4.6 lakh repatriations from Sri Lanka have been officially recorded so far, besides thousands of Tamils of Sri Lankan origin who sought asylum in India.
  • At least 20 per cent of these refugees claim an Indian origin on the basis of Sri Lankan birth certificates that identify them as “Indian Tamil”, and documents that trace their links to Indian grandparents or other ancestors.

When did the refugees from Sri Lanka arrive in India?

  • Tamils who came from Sri Lanka can be separated into those who came before 1983 and those who came after, when the separatist movement in the island nation took a violent turn followed by a series of anti-Tamil riots.
  • Most of the 1 lakh documented Sri Lankan illegal immigrants who live in Tamil Nadu today, fled this ethnic conflict.
  • Those who reached India before 1983 were mostly Indian-origin Tamils whose forefathers migrated to Sri Lanka a century previously, mainly to work in the tea plantations.
  • In 1964, PMs Lal Bahadur Shastri and Sirimavo Bandaranaike signed an agreement to allow some 9,75,000 people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka, who had citizenship of neither country, to become citizens of the country of their choice.
  • Many of those who arrived in India until 1982 got legal accommodation; however, the process was not comprehensive, and was ultimately not completed.

What are the conditions in the Tamil Nadu camps like?

  • About 19,000 Sri Lankan families, comprising 60,000 individuals, live in 107 camps in Tamil Nadu.
  • Some 10,000 of these inmates are children below the age of eight, according to latest available data from August 2019.
  • Technically, those who arrived by boat and other informal, illegal channels during the war in Sri Lanka are considered illegal immigrants, not refugees.
  • Most of these “illegal immigrants” reached Tamil Nadu in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Thereafter, a few hundred came over the years — until arrivals spurted during the last leg of war, which ended with the final defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

Aspirations of these refugees

  • They expect citizenship of India — because they fear persecution and violence at the hands of the Colombo government and the Sinhala Buddhist majority if they return to Sri Lanka.
  • Also, most of the Indian-origin Tamils have ancestral roots, relatives, and property in India.
  • Many could have got Indian citizenship under the Shastri-Bandaranaike Pact if they had chosen to come to India before the ethnic riots broke out in Sri Lanka.
  • There is no process in India to give them citizenship, and these camps were built as a temporary arrangement for people in distress, to make them feel safe until such time as they could return to Sri Lanka after normalcy was restored.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Undoing harms: about criticism on Citizenship Amendment Act


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Citizenship Amendment Act


The Centre tries to fend off criticism that its Citizenship (Amendment) Act excludes Muslims from its beneficial provisions. The stated objective is the fast-tracking of applications from minorities from three Muslim-majority neighborhood countries for citizenship by naturalisation. 

Undo the harm

  • Discussions to implement the CAA should not be confined to the proposed rules only.
  • The government must bring meaningful changes that would dispel fears gripping the minorities. 
  • This is achieved without violating the Constitution and its secular ideals.
  • Religion – Amend the Act to drop its religion-specific wording and make it explicit that the benefit would be open to all undocumented migrants who can prove persecution in their home countries. 
  • No reason to bar Muslims – For allowing a Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist or Parsi to apply for citizenship after staying in the country for six years, there is no need to bar Muslims from making a similar claim.
  • No mandate – It is only an enabling law and does not oblige the government to grant citizenship to anyone. Muslims and atheists have been persecuted in these and other countries by authorities and dominant sections.
  • Others – for others such as Sri Lankan refugees, a 2004 amendment to the citizenship law introduced a clause that ‘illegal migrants’ will not be eligible to apply for citizenship. 

Other issues

  • Illegal immigrants – The definition of ‘illegal migrants’ as those who arrived without valid travel documents includes refugees. 
  • CAA – CAA removes this ‘illegal’ tag from non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 
  • It will automatically enable any refugees to apply for citizenship, subject to the residential requirement. 

Way ahead

  • The general provision would do – a general enabling provision to allow a relaxation of the minimum residency requirement will serve the purpose of considering citizenship to any persecuted people. This would be non-discriminatory.
  • Refugee law – India should enact a refugee law wherein the right to live a life without fear or confinement can be protected.
  • Repatriation – If the fear is that people may seek permanent asylum, the UNHCR can work with them officially for their voluntary repatriation, and without rendering long-term refugees ineligible for applying for citizenship.
  • NPR – the government must end the process once the National Population Register is updated. It must give up the notion of citizenship register.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Many mutinies: On protests against amended citizenship law


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : CAA - analysis


Assam and the other Northeastern States erupted in revolt against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

North East

  • Diversity – The Northeast is inhabited by diverse populations, sharing borders with several neighbors. 
  • Politics of the region – Assertive ethnic politics, secessionism, and resistance to migration into the region, has been a defining character of the area. 
  • Genuine grievances – Grievances of indigenous populations are genuine. It is difficult to try to resolve them by privileging one group over another. 
  • Mindless application of religion – Applying a religious test to such an exercise is mindless and dangerous. 
  • Managing diversity – The Northeast’s ethnic divergences have been delicately managed with the collaboration of local power-brokers and grant of special property and cultural rights to communities. 
  • Invoking faultlines – CAA aggravated dormant faultlines and inflames new passions. It has wrecked the Assam Accord of 1985 and exhumed sleeping hostilities.

 Upholding diversity

  • The government announced its commitment to the cultural and linguistic rights of Northeast communities.
  • What it takes – meaningful gestures are needed to hold together diverse populations in the pursuit of common goals. 

India – superpower

  • The government has to understand that triggering numerous mutinies across the nation is an impossible route to be a superpower. 
  • Kashmir – the subterfuge on Kashmir involved responsible government functionaries lying to the public. 
  • BJP in NE –  the party is in power in all seven States. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, it won a majority of the region’s 25 seats. It mistook its victories for approval of its Hindutva politics. 
  • Hindutva – it seeks to subordinate all identities to an overarching Hindu identity. But societies cannot be shoehorned into such narrow politics. 
  • CAA’s intent – The CAA seeks to provide a legal route to the politics of turning the Northeast’s ethnic faultlines into a religious one, by excluding Muslims alone. 
  • It pits Bengali-speaking Hindus who have moved around in the region against their Muslim counterparts.


The government must undo the misadventure of CAA. It must show courage and hold back, and the leadership must demonstrate statesmanship.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] In the name of a majority


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : CAB and its analysis


The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) promises to give the protection of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. 

Reasonable – unreasonable

  • Religious persecution is a reasonable ground for protection. 
  • Not all communities – However, CAB does not include all communities that suffered religious persecution.
  • Muslims – It explicitly excludes Muslims who suffered persecution in the specified countries and other non-Muslim majority countries like Myanmar.


  • This is a majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship.
  • It is not shared by the majority of people in this country.
  • Such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950.
  • Inclusive citizenship – the CAB changes completely the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.

Arguments in support

  • It is non-discriminatory and its objectives are justifiable.
  • Moral imperative – The need of correcting a perceived past wrong — the Partition. 

Changes in citizenship law

  • With NRC – The CAB must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and other changes in the citizenship law.
  • NRC – NRC protects the country against illegal migrants and the CAB protects refugees. 
  • Against the intent – This is incommensurate with the election speeches made by BJP leaders. Eg., Amit Shah had promised an NRC in West Bengal, but only after the passage of the CAB to ensure that no Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugee is denied citizenship for being an illegal immigrant.
  • The Home Minister declared that a nationwide NRC would follow soon.


  • The CAB and the NRC have become conjoined in their articulation of citizenship. 
  • The two represent the tendency towards jus sanguinis in the citizenship law in India, which commenced in 1986, became definitive in 2003, and has reached its culmination in the contemporary moment. 
  • ‘Illegal migrants’ – In 2003, the insertion of the category ‘illegal migrants’ in the provision of citizenship by birth became the hinge from which the NRC and the CAB emerged.
  • The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 – made the registration of all citizens of India, the issue of national identity cards, the maintenance of a national population register, and the establishment of an NRC by the Central government compulsory. 
  • Registrar General of Citizen Registration is to collect particulars of individuals and families, including their citizenship status, through a ‘house-to-house enumeration’. 
  • Assam exception –Assam has followed a different procedure of ‘inviting applications’ with particulars of each family and individual and their citizenship status based on the NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971. 
  • The purpose of the NRC is to sift out ‘foreigners’ and ‘illegal migrants’, who were referred to at different points as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘aggressors’, and a threat to the territory and people of India.

Exempting minority groups

  • Minorities – The second strand emerging from the 2003 amendment has taken the form of the CAB, which exempts ‘minority communities’, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, from three countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — from the category of ‘illegal migrants’. 
  • Inline with past exemptions – CAB brings the citizenship law in line with exemptions already made in the Passport Act 1920 and Foreigners Act 1946 through executive orders in September 2015 and July 2016. It sets a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 as the date of eligibility of illegal migrants for exemption.


  • Change in date – A PIL filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha pending before the Supreme Court has contested the deviation in the cut-off date set for Assam by the Citizenship Amendment Act 1986, March 24, 1971, from the date specified in Article 6 of the Constitution, i.e., July 19, 1948, which applies to the rest of the country. 
  • Forward cutoff – The CAB is applicable to entire India, and takes the cut-off date forward by several years.

Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)

  • ‘Persecuted minorities’ – constitutional experts advised JPC to use a broader category, ‘persecuted minorities’, to protect the Bill from the charge of violating the right to equality in Article 14. 
  • Religious basis – The CAB uses the category ‘minority communities’ and identifies them on the ground of religion. The notifications of 2015 and 2016, which changed the Passport and Foreigners Acts, had mentioned the term ‘religious persecution’. 
  • Religious persecution – if it is the basis for making a distinction among persons, as per JPC, it could not be discriminatory, because the distinction was both intelligible and reasonable. It satisfies the standards laid down in the Supreme Court judgment in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkarhabib (1952) to affirm adherence to Article 14.

Test of reasonableness

  • Supreme court laid down substantive conditions in the same verdict. 
  • Applying criteria – the criteria of intelligibility of the differentia and the reasonableness of classification, must satisfy both grounds of protection guaranteed by Article 14, i.e., protection against discrimination and protection against the arbitrary exercise of state power. 
  • Further test of reasonableness – In 2009, the Delhi High Court judgement in Naz Foundation vs. Government of NCT of Delhi referred to “a catena of decisions” to lay down a further test of reasonableness. It requires that the objective for such classification in any law must also be subjected to judicial scrutiny. 
  • Restraint – The restraint on state arbitrariness was to come from constitutional morality. B.R. Ambdkar declared that it is the responsibility of the state to protect the constitutional morality.


  • Government wishes to change the citizenship law to address the problem of refugees. 
  • The JPC refers to standard operating procedures for addressing the concerns of refugees from neighbouring countries.
  • SoPs – for refugees from the erstwhile West Pakistan, the standard operating procedure was the grant of long-term visas leading to citizenship. 
  • This law will put them through an arduous process of proving religious persecution. 
  • Immediately after Partition, ‘displaced persons’ constituted an administrative category, and citizenship files of 1950s show that process of preparation of electoral rolls was expedited.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Nehru-Liaquat Agreement of 1950


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nehru-Liaquat Agreement of 1950

Mains level : Significance of the said pact in justifying CAB

Rejecting the Opposition’s criticism that the CAB discriminates against minorities, the Union Home Minister has referred to the Nehru-Liaquat pact to justify the new legislation.

The Nehru-Liaquat Pact

  • The Liaquat–Nehru Pact was a bilateral treaty between India and Pakistan, where refugees were allowed to return to dispose of their property, abducted women and looted property were to be returned, forced conversions were unrecognized, and minority rights were confirmed.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan were the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan.
  • Officially the agreement was signed on April 8, 1950.
  • The need for such a pact was felt by minorities in both countries following Partition, which was accompanied by massive communal rioting.
  • In 1950, as per some estimates, over a million Hindus and Muslims migrated from and to East Pakistan amid communal tension and riots such as the 1950 East Pakistan riots and the Noakhali riots.

Key takeaways of the plan

  • refugees were allowed to return unmolested to dispose of their property
  • abducted women and looted property were to be returned
  • forced conversions were unrecognized
  • minority rights were confirmed

Citizenship and Related Issues

Exemption categories under CAB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAB and its various prospects

Mains level : Issues over citizenship amendment bill

In the protests in the Northeast against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019, the outrage has been most intense, sustained and widespread in Assam as its larger part is under CAB.

Exemption categories under CAB

There are two categories that have been given exemption — states protected by the ‘Inner Line’, and areas covered under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Inner Line Permit (ILP)

  • This is a special permit that citizens from other parts of India require to enter a state protected by the ILP regime.
  • Without an ILP granted by the state government, an Indian from another state cannot visit an state that is under the ILP regime.

Sixth Schedule

  • The Sixth Schedule relates to special provisions in administration of certain Northeastern states.
  • It provides special powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these states.
  • ADCs have powers to enact laws in areas under their jurisdiction on a variety of subjects, one of its objectives being to boost self-governance by tribal communities.

State by state

Assam: The state has three Autonomous District Councils, two of which are geographically contiguous. While these are protected, CAB will be in effect in a larger area.

Meghalaya: This state too has three ADCs. Unlike in Assam, the ADCs in Meghalaya cover almost the entire state. Only a small part of Shillong is not covered. CAB will be effective in that part of Shillong while the rest of the state is protected.

Tripura: One ADC covers around 70% of the state’s area. However, the remaining 30% holds about two-thirds of the population. CAB is effective in the smaller, more densely populated regions.

Arunachal Pradesh: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB.

Nagaland: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB. So far, only Dimapur used to be outside the regime. Now, ILP has been extended to Dimapur, too, so the whole state is now exempt.

Mizoram: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB. Additionally, the state has three ADCs that are also protected under the Sixth Schedule.

Manipur: Entire state gets new ILP protection. The state was not protected under either option, but following the introduction of CAB in Parliament, the government has introduced ILP in Manipur too.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] A patently unconstitutional piece of legislation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship Act, 1955.

Mains level : Indian constitution, historical underpinnings, evolution, features.


Citizenship amendment bill (CAB) is being criticized for its intent, lack of logic and for being unconstitutional.

Citizenship in India:

Citizenship is really the right to have rights.

  • In 1950 when constitution was adopted, part 2 provided the citizenship based on domicile.
  • Even migrants from Pakistani territory were also given citizenship rights.
  • Constitution also vested the Parliament with powers to make provisions with respect to “acquisition and termination of citizenship”.
  • Pursuant to this, Parliament had enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955.

What are the contentious provisions?

  • In a country, which has adopted secular constitution, such as India, can certain religious groups be preferred in acquisition of citizenship?
  • Besides that, there are many contentious issues. 
  • Classification of countries and communities is constitutionally suspect.

Country Classification:

  • The clubbing of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh together is unclear.
  • Common history is not a ground as Afghanistan was never a part of British India.
  • Why countries such as Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar which share land border with India are excluded is not clear.
  • ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the bill states that these three countries constitutionally provides for the state religion.
  • Thus, the bill is to protect “religious minorities” in these theocratic states.
  • But Bhutan which is constitutionally religious state (Vajrayana Buddhism)- is excluded from the list.
  • Why Sri Lanka where Tamil Hindus have been persecuted and Myanmar where Muslim Rohingyas are persecuted have not been included?
  • The CAB selection of these three countries is therefore arbitrary.

Community Classification:

  • While classifying an individual the bill provide benefits to only one type of persecution- Religious persecution.
  • This itself is suspect category, as there are ample examples of political persecution.
  • Shias in Pakistan face the persecution but are missing from the list.
  • Similarly, atheists are missing from the list of beneficiaries.
  • Ahmadiyas in Pakistan are not recognised as Muslims in Pakistan but are not included in the list.

Article 14 and The provisions of the Bill:

  • Article 14 prevents the state from denying any “person” (as opposed to citizen)            ”equality before the law” or “equal protection of the laws” within the territory of India.
  • So, the provision of CAB will deny the equal protection to the similarly placed persons.
  • But it may also end up giving citizenship to the less deserving person at the cost of more deserving.


The arbitrary and discriminatory clauses of the bill is going to defeat the stated objects and reasons of the bill so it must be corrected accordingly to provide the relief to all the victims of persecution irrespective of the religion or the country of residence.

Citizenship and Related Issues

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Issues over citizenship amendment bill

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said it was “deeply troubled” by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

US Commission on International Religious Freedom

  • The USCIRF is an advisory or a consultative body, which advises the US Congress and the administration on issues pertaining to international religious freedom.
  • It describes itself as an independent, bipartisan US federal government commission that was created by The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).
  • The broad-based coalition that advocated strongly for IRFA’s enactment sought to elevate the fundamental human right of religious freedom as a central component of US foreign policy.
  • In practice, the USCIRF has little teeth in implementation, but acts as a conscience-keeper for the two branches in the US government — the legislature and the executive.
  • It often takes maximalist or extreme positions, and has been used by civil society groups to put pressure on US Congress members and administration officials.

What is IRFA?

  • The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was passed by the 105th US Congress (1997-99) and signed into law by then President Bill Clinton on October 27, 1998.
  • It is a statement of the US’s concern over violations of religious freedoms overseas.
  • The act expresses a part of the US foreign policy with respect to individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of religion,

What does the USCIRF do?

  • The USCIRF is mandated by US statute to “monitor the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad — ironically not in the US.
  • It makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

How does USCIRF define “freedom of religion or belief abroad”?

  • The Commission say- Religious freedom is an important human right recognized in international law and treaties.
  • The freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought and conscience, and is intertwined with the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

Why hues across the globe?

  • it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith.
  • In conjunction with the ongoing NRC process it is feared that Indian is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Unequal, unsecular: On Citizenship Amendment Bill


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship Amendment Bill

Mains level : Analysis of the provisions


The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB), is discriminatory and its constitutionality has to be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny. 

Passing of the bill

  • The government went ahead with it, despite opposition in Parliament, as well as from enlightened sections. 
  • The proposed amendment singles out a community for hostile treatment. 
  • The Bill chooses to open its citizenship door to non-Muslims from three nations with a Muslim majority — Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. 


  • It provides an opportunity for members of minority communities from these countries who had entered India prior to December 31, 2014, to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. 
  • The residential requirement for this category for naturalisation is reduced from 11 years to five. 
  • The Bill avoids the words ‘persecuted minorities’. The Statement of Objects and Reasons says, “many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religions” in these three countries. 
  • The Home Ministry notifications in 2015-2016 had exempted these undocumented migrants from the adverse penal consequences under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946. It refers to this notification.
  • The CAB creates a category of people on the basis of their religion and renders them eligible for its beneficial effects.

Arguments against it

  • It will not extend to those persecuted in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, from where Rohingya Muslims and Tamils are staying in the country as refugees. 
  • It fails to allow Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims, who also face persecution, to apply for citizenship. 
  • CAB’s provisions do not apply to tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, and the Inner Line Permit areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram. 
  • The main provisions fail to do careful and meaningful categorisation. 


  • The central feature of the equal protection of the law in Article 14 is that the basis for classifying a group for a particular kind of treatment should bear a rational nexus with the overall objective. 
  • If protecting persecuted neighborhood minorities is the objective, the classification may fail the test of constitutionality because of the exclusion of some countries and communities using religion.


Back in debate: The Citizenship Amendment Bill

Citizenship and Related Issues

Areas where Citizenship (Amendment) Bill does not apply


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAB, ILP

Mains level : Citizenship issues in NE India

In the revised version of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) which is set to be introduced, the Centre has exempted certain areas in the Northeast, where the Bill has been facing protests.

CAB exempted states

In effect, it exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit.

Why are three states totally exempted?

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) states: “Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inter Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) system prevails in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. In Nagaland, Dimapur town is not under ILP as of now.

How does the ILP system work?

  • ILP is a special permit that citizens from other parts of India require to enter the three states. It can be obtained after applying online or physically, and specifies dates of travel and areas which the ILP holder can travel to.
  • When the regime was introduced under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, the objective was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
  • In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”, to address local concerns about protecting their interests.

What does this exemption mean for beneficiaries under CAB?

  • In ILP states, there are already a large number of migrants from other Indian states. They live and work there equipped with long-term ILPs, and renew these.
  • The question now being asked, therefore, is whether a person who becomes an Indian citizen through CAB can, or cannot, apply for an ILP and work in such states, just like any other Indian citizen.
  • Also, multiple restrictions and regulations exist on entry and stay of “outsiders” (Indian citizens from outside that state/area) in areas under the Inner Line system or the Sixth Schedule.
  • These existing rules are expected to put the same restrictions on someone who has acquired citizenship through CAB.
  • The exemptions appear to imply, however, that no immigrant non-citizen living in these areas can be regularized as an Indian citizen through CAB.
  • The exemption means that no… Bangladeshi will be allowed to settle in Mizoram and other ILP states under CAB.

What is the Sixth Schedule, and which areas are exempted from CAB?

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, described in Articles 244(2) and 275(1), relates to special provisions in administration of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and provides special powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these states.
  • ADCs have powers to enact laws in areas under their jurisdiction on a variety of subjects, with the objective of ensuring development of tribal areas and boosting self-governance by tribal communities.
  • Mizoram is covered under the ILP regime in any case.
  • Among the other three states that have areas protected under the Sixth Schedule, tribal-majority Meghalaya has three ADCs that cover practically the entire state, except for a small part of Shillong city.
  • Assam has three ADCs and Tripura one, all with Sixth Schedule powers.

So, why has Manipur been an exception to both these kinds of regimes?

  • Manipur, like Tripura, was a princely state. When they joined the Indian Union (both in 1949; they became full-fledged states in 1972), they were out of the scheme of the Sixth Schedule.
  • Only from 1985, the Sixth Schedule was implemented in Tripura’s tribal areas.
  • When Tripura was given, the Centre had said that even in Manipur it would be extended shortly —but it never turned out to be a reality.

What about Manipur’s tribal areas?

  • Manipur has two geographically distinct areas. The valley, which includes Imphal, constitutes roughly 10% of the geographical area but holds around 60% of the state’s population.
  • These belong mostly to the dominant Meitei community. The remaining 90% is hill areas, home to the other 40% that include a wide range of tribes, including Nagas and Kukis.
  • The Centre, while granting statehood, was aware that certain problems could come up for tribals and hence introduced Article 371C.

But what is Article 371C?

  • It mentions special provisions for Manipur.
  • The powers granted through this provision protect the tribals of Manipur in the Assembly, primarily through the Hill Areas Committee of the Manipur State Legislative Assembly — which comprises MLAs from the hill areas of the state.

Are there any other provisions for Manipur?

  • The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971, passed by Parliament, paved the way for establishment of six Autonomous District Councils in Manipur in 1972.
  • However, that without the Sixth Schedule in place, these Councils have much lower powers in comparison to ADCs under the Sixth Schedule.
  • Last year, the Manipur People Bill, 2018 was passed by the Assembly. Said to be awaiting presidential assent, it proposes to several regulations on “outsiders” or “non-Manipuri people” in the state.
  • The Bill had undergone series of negotiations on defining the “Manipuri” people, after which a consensus was reached on 1951 as the cut-off year.

What about other states in the Northeast?

  • In November this year, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act 2016, which will lead to laws that require non-resident visitors to register themselves.
  • The move came in the backdrop of demands for an ILP-like regime and concerns expressed by civil society and political leaders that people excluded from the NRC in Assam might try to enter Meghalaya.
  • In Assam too, there have been demands by certain sections for the introduction of an ILP regime.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The misadventure of a new citizenship regime


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Citizenship issues


Too much moves on counting

  • The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner has recently completed a 10-year project of data collection, at the household level, for the Census of 2021.
  • The individual level data collection for the National Population Register is also to be uploaded next summer, alongside the Census.
  • As of January 2019, nearly 123 crore Aadhaar cards had been issued.

Nationwide NRC in queue

  • In Parliament, recently, an exercise in counting was proposed, for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  • While its predecessors were counting “residents” rather than “citizens”, the objective of this latest initiative is to count citizens — specifically to sift and sort citizens from non-citizens.
  • This move is to include and exclude, and having done so to weed out “infiltrators” destined for detention camps and potential deportation.

Eliminating aliens

  • The rationale for a nationwide NRC, its feasibility, and, above all, its moral legitimacy, is questionable.
  • Under the Foreigners’ Act, 1946, the burden of proof rests on the individual charged with being a foreigner.
  • Since the Citizenship Act provides no independent mechanism for identifying aliens — remember the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, or IMDT Act, in 2005 — the NRC effectively places an entire population under suspicion of alienage.
  • This is tantamount not only to using an elephant to crush an ant, but of torturing the elephant to do it.

Why is Nationwide NRC unfeasible?

The cost of ‘authentication’


  • Let us also consider the resources needed to conduct such an NRC before discussing the deep moral misgivings such a project must provoke.
  • The Assam NRC is reported to have cost ₹1,600 crore with 50,000 officials deployed to enroll almost 3.3 crore applicants in an exercise that even its champions acknowledge to be deeply flawed excluding 19 lakh people.
  • On this basis, and taking as an indicative number the Indian electorate of 87.9 crore, a nationwide NRC would require an outlay of ₹4.26 lakh crore.
  • This is more than double the presumptive loss in the 2G scam, and four times the budgetary outlay for education this year.

Personnels required

  • The work of “authenticating” 87.9 crore people would entail the deployment of 1.33 crore officials.
  • In 2011-12 (the most recent official data available), the total number of government employees in India was 2.9 crore.
  • If, like the Census, this exercise is to be managed exclusively by the Central government, the additional personnel needed would make this a truly novel employment generation programme.

Not an easy task

  • Yet the limitation of administrative capacity in India is a public secret.
  • One way or another, the entire population of India and more than half its government officials will be involved, for at least the next 10 years, in counting and being counted.
  • The remainder can be involved in building the new detention centres that will be needed to incarcerate the unhappily excluded.

Learning from Assam

  • Few lessons have evidently been learned from the Assam experience that yielded unanticipated outcomes, especially unwelcome to those who were most enthusiastic about it.
  • It would increase the illegal practices of “paper citizenship” acquired through “networks of kinship” and “networks of profit”.
  • As in Assam, such an enrolment drive could actually put undocumented nationals at risk of losing their citizenship in a futile search for non-national migrants who are invariably better documented.
  • The fear of not having papers has already led to many suicides; we should brace ourselves for many more.

Confusion over cutoff date

  • Among the many uncertainties that persist is that about the cut-off date. March 1971 has little relevance beyond Assam.
  • The speculation about a July 1948 date for the rest of India is implausible in light of constitutional provisions, post-Partition jurisprudence, and the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1955.
  • Second, will enrolment in the NRC be compulsory or voluntary (as in Assam), and what might the consequences of not seeking registration be?
  • Finally, there is the federal imperative of seeking the consent of State governments. Already, many States in northeast India are erupting in protest.
  • It is sobering to recall that political considerations alone have prevented the implementation, for over two decades, of the Supreme Court ruling awarding citizenship to Chakma and Hajong tribals in Arunachal Pradesh.

Weak assurances of CAB

  • It has been asserted in Parliament that the NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) are unrelated.
  • Such assurances are however unlikely to assuage the anxieties of Muslim citizens given the larger ecosystem for minorities in India.
  • Vigilante violence against minorities and legal impunity for its perpetrators, the triple talaq legislation and the reading down of Article 370, are suggestive of a state-society consensus on the status of minorities as second-class citizens in the New India.

A move for racial citizenship?

  • At the end of a prolonged debate the Constituent Assembly settled on the principle of jus soli or birth-based citizenship as being “enlightened, modern, civilized” as opposed to the “racial citizenship” implied by the rival descent-based principle of jus sanguinis.
  • A shift from soil to blood as the basis of citizenship began to occur from 1985 onwards.
  • In 2004, an exception to birth-based citizenship was created for individuals born in India but having one parent who was an illegal migrant (impliedly Bangladeshi Muslim) at the time of their birth.
  • The CAB and the NRC will only consolidate this shift to a jus sanguinis citizenship regime.


  • Constitutionally, India is a political community whose citizens avow the idea of the nation as a civic entity, transcending ethnic differences.
  • The NRC-CAB combination signals a transformative shift from a civic-national conception to an ethno-national conception of India, as a political community in which identity determines gradations of citizenship.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Back in debate: The Citizenship Amendment Bill


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship in India

Mains level : Demographic changes due to illegal migration in India

The government intends to introduce The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament’s ongoing Winter Session.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
  • In other words, the Bill intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  • The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, a person who is born in India, or has Indian parentage, or has resided in India over a specified period of time, is eligible for Indian citizenship.

Illegal migrants

  • Illegal migrants cannot become Indian citizens in accordance with the present laws.
  • Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
  • Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.

Non-Muslim migrants aren’t illegal!

  • However, in 2015 and 2016, the government exempted specified groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts.
  • They were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • This meant that these particular categories of illegal migrants would not be deported or jailed for being in India without valid documents.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Parliament to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955, so that these people could be made eligible for citizenship of India.

What happened with the Bill?

  • The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.
  • With the 16th Lok Sabha nearing the end of its term, the government was racing against time to introduce it in Rajya Sabha.
  • However, massive protests against the Bill in the Northeast acted to restrain the government, and Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on February 13, 2019, without the Bill being tabled.
  • According to Parliamentary procedures, all Bills that have been passed by Lok Sabha but not by Rajya Sabha lapse when the term of Lok Sabha ends.

What is the controversy around the Bill?

  • The fundamental criticism of the Bill has been that it specifically targets Muslims.
  • Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • The government, however, maintains that the Bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.
  • In the NE states, the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties, including fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] A Bill that undercuts key constitutional values


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NRC and Citizenship Amendment Bill


The statement made by the Home Minister on protecting all religions except Muslim community reflect the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Citizenship Amendment Bill

  • It makes an amendment to the Citizenship Act – the umbrella law that sets out the elements of Indian citizenship. 
  • The Amendment stipulates that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan… shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”. 
  • These individuals are made eligible for naturalisation as Indian citizens, and the normal precondition for naturalisation — 12 years in the country — is halved to 6 years. 
  • It shields a set of individuals from being declared illegal migrants and it creates a fast-track to citizenship for these individuals. 

The issues with the bill

  • It does so on an explicitly communal basis: it categorically excludes Muslims from its ambit.
  • If the government goes ahead with implementing a nation-wide NRC, then those who find themselves excluded from it will be divided into two categories: 
    • (predominantly) Muslims, who will now be deemed illegal migrants
    • all others, who would have been deemed illegal migrants, but are now immunised by the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
  • The last bit shows that non-Muslims who are left out of a nation-wide NRC will not immediately receive legal immunity. 
  • By dividing migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the Citizenship Amendment Bill explicitly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos.

Flawed logic

  • As the PRS Legislative Research website points out, if the objective is the protection of minorities, then there is no explanation for why Jews and atheists have been left out.
  • There are Muslim religious minorities within these countries who are subjected to grave and serious persecution: the classic example is that of the Ahmadis in Pakistan.
  • There is no explanation for why only these three countries have been singled out. The Rohingya community in Myanmar has been subjected to prolonged persecution, ethnic cleansing, and potentially genocide. 
  • It is evident that the protection of minorities is not the genuine objective of the Citizenship Amendment Bill

Violating the Constitution

  • Some argue that Article 15 of the Constitution — that bars religious discrimination — applies only to citizens. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons equality before the law, and the equal protection of law. 
  • Discriminatory treatment that is arbitrary, and classifications that are unreasonable violate the essence of the equal treatment clause. 
  • A state that separates individuals and treats them unequally violates the prescription of Article 14 and the principle of respecting the dignity of all.

Other issues with the bill

  • It dramatically seeks to alter the basis of citizenship in India. During the framing of the Indian Constitution, it was agreed that the primary basis for Indian citizenship would be jus soli — or, citizenship by birth (in the territory of India). 
  • Over the years this principle has been diluted to an extent, with citizenship by descent replacing jus soli in certain respects. 
  • The Bill will be the first time that religion or ethnicity will be made the basis of citizenship. 
  • That would do grave damage to the very idea of India as an inclusive and diverse polity, where religion has no bearing on who can become a full member of society.
  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill is closely linked to plans for a nationwide NRC. It is said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is required to protect non-Muslims who are excluded from the NRC.


  • It is argued that NRC is required for national security, and India cannot “run smoothly under the weight of so many intruders”. 
  • There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is a huge influx of illegal migrants into India. Recent evidence suggests that the rate of migration has been declining. 
  • Assam NRC arose out of a very specific historical experience, and Assam’s own position as a border State.
  • For the rest of India, Assam’s own experience shows that an exercise such as this will only lead to misery and exclusion on a national scale.


A nationwide NRC will replicate the flaws of the Assam NRC on a much larger scale. The discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Bill will protect some based on their religion. Both exercises need to be urgently challenged before the courts.

Citizenship and Related Issues

In news: National Population Register (NPR) 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NPR, NRC

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • Government has revived National Population Register (NPR) project at a time when National Register of Citizens has been published in Assam.

National Population Register (NPR)

  • The NPR is a list of “usual residents of the country”. The exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels.
  • According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, a “usual resident of the country” is one who has been residing in a local area for at least the last six months, or intends to stay in a particular location for the next six months.
  • The NPR is being prepared under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • It is mandatory for every “usual resident of India” to register in the NPR.
  • The data for the NPR were first collected in 2010 along with the houselisting phase of Census 2011. In 2015, this data was further updated by conducting a door-to-door survey.
  • It will be conducted in conjunction with the houselisting phase, the first phase of the Census, by the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) under the MHA for Census 2021.

How is NPR different from NRC?

  • Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would record even a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months.
  • Only Assam will not be included, given the recently completed NRC.

Controversy around it

  • It comes in the backdrop of the NRC excluding 19 lakh people in Assam.
  • With the government insisting that the NRC would be implemented across the country, the NPR has raised anxieties around the idea of citizenship in the country.
  • Even as a debate continues on Aadhaar and privacy, the NPR intends to collect a much larger amount of personal data on residents of India.
  • The idea of conducting a nationwide NRC would only happen on the basis of the upcoming NPR.
  • After a list of residents is created, a nationwide NRC could go about verifying the citizens from that list.
  • The NPR is also amongst a host of identity databases such as Aadhaar, voter card, passport and more that MHA would like to see combined into one card.

Is the NPR a new idea?

  • The idea actually dates back to the UPA regime and was put in motion in 2009.
  • In fact, at that time it had clashed with Aadhaar (UIDAI) over which project would be best suited for transferring government benefits to citizens.
  • The MHA had then pushed the idea of the NPR being a better vehicle because it connected every NPR-recorded resident to a household through the Census.
  • Back then, the Home Ministry push had even put the UIDAI project on the backburner.
  • The exercise to update the 2015 NPR with additional data has begun and will be completed in 2020.

What kind of data will NPR collect?

  • The NPR will collect both demographic data and biometric data.
  • There are 15 different categories of demographic data, ranging from name and place of birth to education and occupation, that the RGI is supposed collect in the NPR.
  • For biometric data it will depend on Aadhaar, for which it will seek Aadhaar details of the residents.
  • Apart from this, in a test run going on across the country, the RGI is seeking details of mobile number, Aadhaar, PAN card, Driving Licence, Voter ID card and passport (in case the resident is Indian).
  • It is also working to update the Civil Registration System of birth and death certificates.

More personal data

  • In the 2010 exercise, the RGI had collected only demographic details.
  • In 2015, it updated the data further with the mobile, Aadhaar and ration card numbers of residents.
  • In the 2020 exercise, it has dropped the ration card number but added other categories.
  • According to MHA sources, while registering with the NPR is mandatory, furnishing of additional data such as PAN, Aadhaar, driving licence and voter ID is voluntary.
  • The Ministry has also floated the option of residents updating details in the NPR online.

Why does the government want so much data?

I. Identifying own citizens

  • The first is the assertion that every country must have a comprehensive identity database of its residents with relevant demographic details.
  • It says it will help the government formulate its policies better and also aid national security.

II. Streamlining data

  • The second, largely to justify the collection of data such as driving licence, voter ID and PAN numbers, is that it will only ease the life of those residing in India by cutting red tape.
  • Not only will it help target government beneficiaries in a better way, but also further cut down paperwork and red tape in a similar manner that Aadhaar has done.

III. Preventing duplication of data

  • It is common to find different date of birth of a person on different government documents. NPR will help eliminate that.
  • With NPR data, residents will not have to furnish various proofs of age, address and other details in official work. It would also eliminate duplication in voter lists, government insists.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Exclusion from NRC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : NRC and its aftermath


  • The final list of Assam’s NRC excluded names of over 19 lakh applicants. A total of 3.30 crore applicants had applied to be included in the NRC.

The “Updated” NRC

  • Witness to decades of migration from Bangladesh — formerly East Bengal and then East Pakistan — Assam already has an NRC, which was published in 1951 on the basis of that year’s Census.
  • The only state with such a document, Assam is currently updating it to identify its citizens.
  • The update, mandated and monitored by the Supreme Court is fallout of the Assam Accord of 1985, which sets March 24, 1971 as the cutoff date for citizenship.
  • Those who entered Assam before that date are recognised as citizens.

But was there not an updated NRC last year itself?

  • That was a draft, published in July 2018.
  • In that list, 2.89 crore residents were included as Indian citizens, while 40 lakh were left out. After that, those who were left out were allowed to file claims for inclusion.
  • Meanwhile, citizens had the option of filing objections against anyone who they felt was wrongly included.
  • Earlier this year, NRC authorities put out an additional exclusion list, with 1 lakh individuals, who had originally been included in the NRC draft but were later found eligible.

Does this mean that the 19 lakh are illegal migrants?

  • Not necessarily. They still have the option of appealing.
  • They can approach, within a deadline, a Foreigners Tribunal with a certified copy of the rejection order from the NRC, along with the grounds for appeal.
  • In addition to the 100 existing Foreigners Tribunals, 200 more will be functional soon.
  • If the applicant loses their case before such a Tribunal, he or she can appeal in the High Court, and then the Supreme Court if necessary.
  • Someone who is not only excluded from the final NRC but also loses his or her case in a Foreigners Tribunal, however, faces possible arrest, and the prospect of being sent to a detention centre.

Claiming inclusion

  • The excluded persons will need to prove that they or their ancestors were citizens on or before March 24, 1971.
  • This is the cutoff date in the Assam Accord of 1985, agreed upon by the Centre, the state and the All Assam Students’ Union, at the end of a six-year movement against migration from Bangladesh.
  • Surviving citizens from the 1951 NRC are automatically eligible for inclusion in the updated version.
  • So are descendants of the survivors and of the deceased — provided that they can prove their lineage. Linkage to the 1951 NRC is, however, not compulsory.
  • Going by the cutoff under the Assam Accord, anyone who figured in electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971, or who are descendants of such citizens, are eligible for inclusion in the updated NRC.
  • Various other documents are admissible — such as birth certificates and land records — as long as these were issued before the cutoff date.

Will there be any Deportation?

  • Although the Assam movement was for deportation, Bangladesh has never officially acknowledged that any of its citizens migrated illegally to Assam.
  • The state also has six detention camps (with plants to build more) for illegal migrants within existing jails, and proposes to build a seventh with a capacity for 3,000.
  • These cannot, however, be expected to accommodate all the exclusions, which could finally run into lakhs.

State of Statelessness

  • The final excluded would officially be non-citizens, but what happens to them remains a grey area. India has no fixed policy for “stateless” persons, a/c to MHA.
  • The only aspect that is more or less clear is that a “stateless” person will not have voting rights.
  • As of now, nothing is clear about their rights to work, housing and government healthcare and education.
  • There have been suggestions in Assam that they be given work permits.

Excluded ultimately: Refugees or Stateless?

  • Being “stateless” is not the same as being a refugee.
  • India has refugees from Tibet, Sri Lanka (Tamils) and West Pakistan. Among them, only the last group has the right to vote — in Lok Sabha elections but not in Assembly polls.
  • For Tibetans, the government allows Indian citizenship with a rider that they move out of Tibetan settlements and forgo refugee benefits.
  • Under the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, 2014, adopted in part by a few states, refugees are eligible for certain benefits under government schemes for labour, rations, housing and loans.


[Burning Issue] Assam NRC

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: How an Indian citizen is defined


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam

  • In the run-up to the publication of the final NRC in Assam, citizenship has become the most talked about topic in the country.

How is citizenship determined?

  • Citizenship signifies the relationship between individual and state.
  • It begins and ends with state and law, and is thus about the state, not people.
  • Citizenship is an idea of exclusion as it excludes non-citizens.

Principles for grant of citizenship

  • There are two well-known principles for grant of citizenship.
  • While jus soli confers citizenship on the basis of place of birth, jus sanguinis gives recognition to blood ties.
  • From the time of the Motilal Nehru Committee (1928), the Indian leadership was in favour of the enlightened concept of jus soli.
  • The racial idea of jus sanguis was rejected by the Constituent Assembly as it was against the Indian ethos.

Citizenship in India

  • Citizenship is in the Union List under the Constitution and thus under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament.
  • The Constitution does not define the term ‘citizen’ but gives, in Articles 5 to 11, details of various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship.
  • Unlike other provisions of the Constitution, which came into being on January 26, 1950, these articles were enforced on November 26, 1949 itself, when the Constitution was adopted.
  • However, Article 11 itself confers wide powers on Parliament by laying down that “nothing in the foregoing provisions shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all matters relating to citizenship”.
  • Thus Parliament can go against the citizenship provisions of the Constitution.
  • The Citizenship Act, 1955 was passed and has been amended four times — in 1986, 2003, 2005, and 2015. The Act empowers the government to determine the citizenship of persons in whose case it is in doubt.
  • However, over the decades, Parliament has narrowed down the wider and universal principles of citizenship based on the fact of birth.
  • Moreover, the Foreigners Act places a heavy burden on the individual to prove that he is not a foreigner.

So who is, or is not, a citizen of India?

Article 5

  • It provided for citizenship on commencement of the Constitution.
  • All those domiciled and born in India were given citizenship.
  • Even those who were domiciled but not born in India, but either of whose parents was born in India, were considered citizens.
  • Anyone who had been an ordinary resident for more than five years, too, was entitled to apply for citizenship.

Article 6

  • Since Independence was preceded by Partition and migration, Article 6 laid down that anyone who migrated to India before July 19, 1949, would automatically become an Indian citizen if either of his parents or grandparents was born in India.
  • But those who entered India after this date needed to register themselves.

Article 7

  • Even those who had migrated to Pakistan after March 1, 1947 but subsequently returned on resettlement permits were included within the citizenship net.
  • The law was more sympathetic to those who migrated from Pakistan and called them refugees than to those who, in a state of confusion, were stranded in Pakistan or went there but decided to return soon.

Article 8

  • Any Person of Indian Origin residing outside India who, or either of whose parents or grandparents, was born in India could register himself or herself as an Indian citizen with Indian Diplomatic Mission.

Amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955

1986 amendment

  • The constitutional provision and the original Citizenship Act gave citizenship on the principle of jus soli to everyone born in India.
  • However, the 1986 amendment to Section 3 was less inclusive as it added the condition that those who were born in India on or after January 26, 1950 but before July 1, 1987, shall be Indian citizen.
  • Those born after July 1, 1987 and before December 4, 2003, in addition to one’s own birth in India, can get citizenship only if either of his parents was an Indian citizen at the time of birth.

2003 amendment

  • The then NDA government made the above condition more stringent, keeping in view infiltration from Bangladesh.
  • Now the law requires that for those born on or after December 4, 2004, in addition to the fact of their own birth, both parents should be Indian citizens or one parent must be Indian citizen and other should not be an illegal migrant.
  • With these restrictive amendments, India has almost moved towards the narrow principle of jus sanguinis or blood relationship.
  • This lay down that an illegal migrant cannot claim citizenship by naturalization or registration even if he has been a resident of India for seven years.

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019

  • The amendment proposes to permit members of six communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — to continue to live in India if they entered India before December 14, 2014.
  • It also reduces the requirement for citizenship from 11 years out of the preceding 14 years, to just 6 years.
  • Two notifications also exempted these migrants from the Passport Act and Foreigner Act.
  • A large number of organisations in Assam protested against this Bill as it may grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindu illegal migrants.

Assam’s Case

What is different in Assam?

  • The Assam Movement against illegal immigration eventually led to the historic Assam Accord of 1985, signed by Movement leaders and the Rajiv Gandhi government.
  • Accordingly, the 1986 amendment to the Citizenship Act created a special category of citizens in relation to Assam.
  • The newly inserted Section 6A laid down that all persons of Indian origin who entered Assam before January 1, 1966 and have been ordinary residents will be deemed Indian citizens.
  • Those who came after 1 January, 1966 but before March 25, 1971,and have been ordinary residents, will get citizenship at the expiry of 10 years from their detection as foreigner.
  • During this interim period, they will not have the right to vote but can get an Indian passport.

Foreigners in Assam

  • Identification of foreigners was to be done under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, (IMDT Act), 1983, which was applicable only in Assam while the Foreigners Act, 1946 was applicable in the rest of the country.
  • The provisions of the IMDT Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants. On the petition of Sarbananda Sonowal (now Chief Minister), the Act was held unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.
  • This was eventually replaced with the Foreigners (Tribunals of Assam) Order, 2006, which again was struck down in 2007 in Sonowal II.
  • In the IMDT case, the court considered classification based on geographical considerations to be a violation of the right to equality under Article 14. In fact, another such variation was already in place.
  • While the cutoff date for Western Pakistan is July 19, 1949, for Eastern Pakistan the Nehru-Liaquat Pact had pushed it to 1950.

Constitutionality of Section 6A

  • A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court is yet to examine the constitutionality of Section 6A under which the current NRC has been prepared.
  • The Bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur did hold its hearing on April 19, 2017, but it was dissolved on the retirement of Justice P C Pant in August 2017.
  • The Supreme Court, in its order last week, refused to extend restrictive provisions of amendments to Assam in view of a different dispensation for them in Section 6A.
  • In Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (2014) where the constitutionality of the 1986 amendment was challenged (the Mahasangha argues that the cutoff year for Assam should be 1951 instead if 1971), the court referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.
  • While Section 6A was inserted in 1986 as a result of the Assam Accord, which has been discussed at length by the court, the court accepted the challenge to its constitutionality in 2014 and referred to the Constitution Bench.
  • It prescribes a different cutoff date for Assam (1971) from the one prescribed in the Constitution for the rest of the country (1949).
  • But then, this provision was about citizenship on commencement of the Constitution.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The complexities of Naga identity


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) issue


The Nagaland government’s move to compile a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) opens up possibilities in the context of the decision to link the register to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system without a consensus on the definition of an ‘indigenous inhabitant’.

Cut off date

Though the official notification on RIIN has not mentioned a cut-off date to compile the proposed register, the authorities in Nagaland have till date issued indigenous inhabitant certificates using December 1, 1963 as the cut-off date.

Opposition from NSCN (I-M)

  • The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), which has been engaged in peace talks with the government of India since 1997, has opposed the compilation of RIIN asserting that “all Nagas, wherever they are, are indigenous in their land by virtue of their common history”.
  • On June 29, the Nagaland government notified that RIIN “will be the master-list of all indigenous inhabitants” of the State.
  • All those to be included will be issued “barcoded and numbered indigenous inhabitant certificates”.
  • It added that all existing indigenous inhabitant certificates would become invalid once the process of compiling RIIN is completed and fresh certificates issued.
  • RIIN is different from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) as exclusion or inclusion in RIIN is not going to determine the Indian citizenship of anyone in Nagaland.

Three conditions

Since 1977, a person, in order to be eligible to obtain a certificate of indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland, has to fulfil either of these three conditions:

a) the person settled permanently in Nagaland prior to December 1, 1963;

b) his or her parents or legitimate guardians were paying house tax prior to this cut-off date; and

c) the applicant, or his/her parents or legitimate guardians, acquired property and a patta (land certificate) prior to this cut-off date.

The compilation of RIIN also involves the complexities of deciding claims in respect of children of non-Naga fathers as well as non-Naga children adopted by Naga parents.


  • If the Nagaland government goes ahead with a compilation of RIIN with this cut-off date, then all Naga people who have migrated to the State from the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in India after this day will have to be excluded.
  • The NSCN(I-M) statement adds, “Nothing is conclusive on the Naga issue, until and unless a mutually agreed honourable political solution is signed between the two entities.
  • Therefore, any attempt to dilute the final political settlement by justifying any past accord of treasons should be seriously viewed by all Nagas.”
  • This clearly indicates the opposition the Nagaland government may have to face if it goes ahead with the move to compile RIIN.


  • The Centre and the NSCN (I-M), which is the largest among all armed Naga rebel groups, signed a Framework Agreement in 2015, the content of which has still not been made public, in turn leaving room for speculation on the contentious issue of integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Unless otherwise clarified through an official notification, the proposed linking of RIIN with the ILP system may require large numbers of non-indigenous inhabitants of Dimapur district, more particularly the commercial hub (Dimapur town), to obtain an ILP to carry out day-to-day activities.
  • Most of them migrated from other States and have been carrying out trade, business and other activities for decades.
  • Migration also explains the higher density of population in Dimapur district (409 persons per sq. km) when compared to all the other districts in the State.
  • The ILP is a travel document issued by the government of India to allow a ‘domestic tourist’ to enter Nagaland, and is valid for 30 days.



1.Cut-off date – While the move to streamline the ILP system to curb the influx of “illegal migration” to Nagaland has been welcomed by civil society, public opinion is still divided on compiling RIIN without a consensus on the cut-off date.

2.De-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism – As the Nagaland government has begun a consultation process on RIIN, it will be under pressure to de-link the work of streamlining the ILP mechanism from the proposed register and put it on hold till the ongoing peace process concludes and the final solution is worked out.

3. Issues in streamlining the ILP-  Besides this, the complexities that may arise in streamlining the ILP mechanism due to non-issuance of domicile certificates or permanent residence certificates to a large number of non-Naga, non-indigenous inhabitants could also make the task even more difficult for the Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland government

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Can India really deport illegal immigrants after the final NRC list?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, Assam Accord

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Recently Home Minister in Rajya Sabha informed that the government would deport illegal immigrants from “every inch of the country’s soil”.
  • This comes weeks ahead of the scheduled publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

NRC Issue: Quick Recap

  • As per directions of the SC, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year.
  • It aimed to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year.
  • The NRC is fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of the NRC.

How many face deportation?

  • The number of people being left out of the NRC is not yet final, and it is not clear if any of them can be deported at all.
  • The final draft NRC had left out 40 lakh applicants. Another 1 lakh, originally among the 2.89 crore included in that draft, were removed after subsequent verification.
  • There could be more deletions as objections have been filed. There are likely be some additions, too.
  • The final NRC is scheduled on July 31. Those left out will have a series of options for appeal, which is a long haul.
  • Only after that will the question of deportation come up, if at all.

What makes deportation so uncertain?

  • For a country to be able to deport a mass of individuals to another country, the second country has to accept that they were its citizens who entered the first country illegally.
  • According to government data until February 2019, Assam has since 2013 deported 166 persons (162 “convicted” and four “declared”) including 147 to Bangladesh.
  • The NRC context is vastly different: this is not about a few hundred but lakhs of individuals, many of whom have lived in Assam for decades and been identifying themselves as Indian citizens.

Bangladeshi un-acceptance

  • Over the years, Bangladeshi leaders have frequently been quoted in the media as denying the presence of its nationals in India.
  • Besides, there have been no visible recent efforts by India to push the matter with Bangladesh.
  • In fact, India is understood to have conveyed to Bangladesh, just before the final draft NRC was published, that there was no talk of deportation.
  • This was an effort directed at addressing a friendly neighbour’s concerns about the prospect, even if it was a theoretical one, of being flooded with a mass of deportees.

If not deportation, then what?

  • The various points of appeal imply that the process of establishing citizenship or illegal stay in Assam could take years, if not decades.
  • First, there are the quasi-judicial Foreigners Tribunals, which those left out of the final NRC will approach.
  • If their claim is rejected again, they have the option of approaching the High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • In between, there is the prospect of being sent to one of the six existing detention camps, or one of the 10 being planned.
  • These have often come into focus for lack of basic facilities, and the apex Court recently allowed conditional release of those who have completed three years in detention, against a bond.

Way Forward

  • For lakhs of people, what the future holds is uncertain as ever.
  • Only a long court battle is certain, while a stateless identity with curtailed rights is a possibility.
  • Deportation, if it ever happens, appears a long way away.
  • The deportation to detention camps is very inhumane. They should be given basic human rights.
  • Identity of such persons should be digitally recorded and they should not be allowed to claim Indian citizenship in other states.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RIIN, ILP

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Nagaland

  • Four years after Assam started revising the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Nagaland government has initiated a move to implement its own version of citizenship register, albeit only for indigenous communities of the state.

Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN)

  • The Government of Nagaland has decided to set up a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) with the aim of preventing fake indigenous inhabitants’ certificates.
  • The RIIN will be the master list of all indigenous inhabitants of the state.

How will the list be prepared?

  • The RIIN list will be based on “an extensive survey”.
  • It will involve official records of indigenous residents from rural and (urban) wards and would be prepared under the supervision of the district administration.
  • The preparation of the list will start from July 10, 2019, and the whole process will be completed within 60 days from the start.
  • Designated teams of surveyors will be formed within seven days from the date of publication of the notification, and thereafter these teams will be sent across each village and ward.
  • The database will note each family’s original residence, current residence as well as the concerned Aadhaar

What is the review procedure?

  • Respondents will be given an opportunity to make their case before the authorities.
  • Eventually, respective Dy. Commissioners will adjudicate on the claims and objections based on official records and the evidence produced.
  • This process will be completed before December 10, 2019.

Unique identity through Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate

  • Based on the adjudication and verification, a list of indigenous inhabitants will be finalised and each person will be given a unique ID.
  • The final list or the RIIN will be created and its copies will be placed in all villages and ward.
  • Electronic copies of the list will also be stored in the State Data Centre. A mechanism or electronic and SMS-based authentication will be put in place.
  • All indigenous inhabitants of the state would be issued a barcoded and numbered Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate.
  • The process will be conducted across Nagaland and will be done as part of the online system of Inner Line Permit (ILP), which is already in force in Nagaland.

The Inner Line Permit (ILP)

  • ILP is an official travel document required by Indian citizens residing outside certain “protected” states while entering them.
  • The ILP is issued by the Govt. of India and is obligatory for all those who reside outside the protected states.
  • With the ILP, the government aims to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.
  • ILP’s origin dates back to the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the British Crown’s interest in tea, oil and elephant trade.
  • It prohibited “British subjects” or Indians from entering into these protected areas.
  • After Independence, in 1950, the word “British subjects” was replaced by Citizens of India and the focus of the ban on free movement was explained as a bid to protect tribal cultures in northeastern India.

How will be the process monitored?

  • The entire exercise will be monitored by the Commissioner of Nagaland.
  • In addition, the state government will designate nodal officers of the rank of a Secretary to the state government. Their role will be to monitor the implementation.
  • However, they will have no say in the adjudication process.
  • The nodal officers will submit monthly reports of their visits and their assessments to a permanent committee set up under the Home Department to monitor the whole exercise.

How will the RIIN be updated?

  • Once the RIIN is finalised, no fresh indigenous inhabitant certificates will be issued except to newborn babies born to the indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland.
  • In case anyone who is left out of the RIIN, he/she will need to file an application before Home Commissioner who will get the matter verified and take necessary action for updating the RIIN if needed.

Citizenship and Related Issues

E-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Foreigners Tribunal

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam

  • The Centre has approved setting up of e-Foreigner Tribunal (e-FT) in Assam.

E-FT System

  • Aim: To maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data and to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • The proposed integrated e-FT IT system will be implemented across Assam for effective monitoring and resolution of cases registered with Foreigner Tribunal.
  • The main objective of the project is to maintain a statewide bio-metric and biographic data, to capture the illegal migrants’ data to computerize data flow for all the stakeholders.
  • It will also help in the legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.
  • The new IT system will not only strengthen the Judiciary in the disposal of cases but also help Police organization in faster detection, prosecution and detention.
  • This will enhance the transparency of case disposal process.  It will also help in legalization of eligible beneficiaries for welfare schemes.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Windrush Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Windrush Scheme

Mains level : Changing visa norms across the world and its implication on Indians

  • UK has issued another personal apology for the Windrush scandal, involving migrants being wrongly denied their British citizenship rights.
  • A latest official update revealed that hundreds more Indians were confirmed as British Citizens.

Windrush Scheme

  • The Windrush Scheme enables Commonwealth citizens, their children, and some other long term residents of the UK to obtain documentation confirming their status free of charge.
  • The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed.
  • While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent who came on the ship Windrush, Indians and other South Asians were also affected by the UK government’s handling of their immigration status.
  • A total of 737 Indians have been able to confirm their status in the wake of the scandal involving Commonwealth nationals wrongly denied their citizenship rights in Britain.
  • A majority of them (559) had arrived in the UK before 1973, when the immigration rules had changed, while the others either arrived later or were a family member of the so-called “Windrush generation”.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Foreigners Tribunals


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, Foreigners Tribunal

Mains level : Issues over NRC

NRC Issue: Quick Recap

  • The MHA has sanctioned around 1,000 Tribunals to be set up in Assam in the wake of publication of the final NRC by July 31.
  • As per directions of the SC, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year.
  • It aimed to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year.
  • The NRC is fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of the NRC.

What is Foreigners Tribunal?

  • With Assam’s NRC as the backdrop, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has laid out specific guidelines to detect, detain and deport foreign nationals staying illegally across the country.
  • The MHA has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and UTs to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
  • Earlier, such powers to constitute tribunals vested with the Centre only.

Why need such tribunals?

  • The foreigners tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
  • In other parts, once a ‘foreigner’ has been apprehended by the police for staying illegally, he or she is produced before the local court under the Passport Act, 1920, or the Foreigners Act, 1946.
  • The punishment ranges from imprisonment of three months to eight years.
  • Once the accused have completed the sentence, the court orders their deportation, and they are moved to detention centres till the country of origin accepts them.

The amendment

  • The 1964 order on Constitution of Tribunals said: “The Central Government may by order, refer the question as to whether a person is not a foreigner within meaning of the Foreigners Act, 1946 to a Tribunal to be constituted for the purpose.
  • The amended order issued says – “for words Central Government may,’ the words ‘the Central Government or the State Government or the UT administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may’ shall be substituted.”

Impact of the Amendment

  • The amended Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 2019 also empowers individuals to approach the Tribunals.
  • Earlier only the State administration could move the Tribunal against a suspect, but with the final NRC about to be published and to give adequate opportunity to those not included, this has been done.
  • If a person doesn’t find his or her name in the final list, they could move the Tribunal.
  • The amended order also allows District Magistrates to refer individuals who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from NRC to the Tribunals to decide if they are foreigners or not.
  • Opportunity will also be given to those who haven’t filed claims by referring their cases to the Tribunals.
  • Fresh summons will be issued to them to prove their citizenship.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Decision of Foreigners Tribunal Will Prevail Over NRC Order


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Citizenship issue in Assam

  • The Supreme Court has held that a tribunal’s order declaring a person as an illegal foreigner would be binding and prevails over the government decision to exclude or include the name from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Decision of Foreigners Tribunal >> Govt. Decision

  • The judgment said that the principle of ‘res-judicata’ (a judicially decided issue cannot be re-agitated) would apply on the decision of foreigners tribunal.
  • A person who has been declared an illegal immigrant cannot seek re-decision in normal circumstances.
  • The bench distinguished between the decisions of NRC and of foreigners tribunals and said that the latter’s order being the quasi-judicial one would prevail.
  • The court, however, said the persons whose names are not included in the NRC in Assam can produce documents including the ones related to family tree and seek review of the tribunals decision.
  • The court had said that it cannot create an appellate forum for those, declared as illegal foreigners by a tribunal, by using its power under Article 142 of the Constitution.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Home Ministry terminates ‘Black List’ of Indian-origin people


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MHA Black list

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Home Ministry has decided to discard its ‘Black Lists’ of Indian-origin people.

What is Black List?

  • The list mostly is comprised of the names of people belonging to the Sikh Community, who have taken asylum abroad under the plea of alleged persecution in India.
  • The list is maintained by Indian missions abroad.
  • The Indian-origin people who took asylum abroad under the plea of alleged persecution in India are included in the list.
  • Those who are in the Black list are denied visa services by Indian missions and posts.

Implications of the move

  • As per Home Ministry officials, all such people presently in the blacklist will be given regular visa as well as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards.
  • Indian missions and posts abroad will no longer be required to maintain any such local lists, known as ‘Black lists’.
  • All such Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and their families who are not in the main adverse list of the government will now be granted a visa and consular services at par with foreigners of that country.
  • In another decision, the MHA also delegated the Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) to grant permits to foreigners to visit protected and restricted area in the country.
  • The state governments along with FRROs will now to be able to grant permits for travel other than tourism in areas that were hitherto restricted areas.


  • Some areas in North-Eastern states, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and a few islands in Andaman and Nicobar islands are currently under restricted and protected areas.
  • Foreigners are required to take special permissions to visit such places.

Citizenship and Related Issues

SC view on foreigner’s detention defies constitutional obligations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Issues over NRC

  • CJI in a statement had ordered greater detention of suspected foreigners in Assam.
  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has said the apex court’s remark was unfortunate and flies in the face of India’s constitutional and international obligations.

Statelessness cited by CHRI

  • CHRI argued that accounts from Assam indicate “arbitrariness and not rule of law” is often used to define those who came post 1971 from Bangladesh — of whatever religious denomination — and those who are Indian nationals.
  • Lakhs are in limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice.
  • The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties.

Inability to deport

  • CHRI referred to Article 21 which that no person in India can be deprived of her/his right to life and liberty without due process.
  • There is no deportation agreement with Bangladesh.
  • International law lays down that such deportations can take place only with the consent of the country of origin.
  • Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India.
  • Indeed, Bangladesh regards such unilateral efforts as harmful to a bilateral relationship that is critical for the security and stability of both countries and especially of our eastern region.

What India cannot do?

  • We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation.
  • Any method used must be undertaken within the rule of law frame, be just and fair and designed to minimize individual hardship and tragedy.
  • This is a tragedy of growing intensity which is gathering momentum as a result of the current National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam.
  • Many of those at risk of being marked foreigners were from the bottom of the economic pyramid, unable to sustain the complex adjudication process needed to establish their citizenship.

Way Forward

  • Inability to address this critical situation adequately and justly would be seen internationally as a gross violation of human rights and a blot on India’s traditional record.
  • The social fault lines could be exacerbated by insensitive handling that could leave many people desperate, particularly youth, with the potential of radicalization.
  • The Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC

Mains level : Citizenship on the basis of religion is not a good idea,


The real aim of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is to segregate non-citizens on the basis of religion.

Background of NRC

  • At present, Assam is the only State in the country to have an NRC, which was compiled way back in 1951.
  • The process of updating the 1951 NRC in Assam has been on since 2015 under constant monitoring by the Supreme Court.
  • The complete draft of the updated NRC in Assam published on July 30, 2018 excluded the names of over 40 lakh of the total 3.29 crore applicants.
  • The Supreme Court has fixed July 31 for publication of the final NRC list after disposal of all claims and objections.

No definition of infiltrators

  • The ideological position of the ruling party is that undocumented immigrants belonging to Hindu and other religious minority groups in these three countries cannot be treated as “illegal migrants” in India and need to be granted citizenship, while the Muslims among them are “infiltrators” must be identified and driven out.
  • This is an attempt to manufacture consent of the people on the definition of “infiltrator” according to the ideological lexicon of the saffron party.

The problem of the cut-off date

  • If the cut-off date is going to be different from that taken for updating the NRC in Assam, what will be the legal status of those included in the updated register in Assam in the rest of the country, and vice versa?
  • The cut-off date for updating the NRC in Assam is March 24, 1971, which is also the cut-off date in the Assam Accord for implementation of the core clause, Clause 5, which calls for identification, deletion of names and expulsion of “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion.
  • Updating the NRC in Assam on the basis of this core clause led to a broad political consensus in the State that the updated register will be a critical document for implementing this clause and addressing the apprehension of the Assamese and other ethnic communities in the State of losing their linguistic, cultural and ethnic identities due to unabated migration from Bangladesh.
  • The Assam government recently informed the Supreme Court that it has submitted a ₹900 crore proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs for sanctioning 1,000 Foreigners Tribunals to decide the cases of those to be excluded from the final NRC list. The State has a hundred Foreigners Tribunals at present.


The smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India without explicitly defining an infiltrator will not be able hide the real threat posed to the country’s secular fabric. If the Bill is made into an Act, it poses the threat of abusing the NRC to divide people on religious lines. The country can ill afford such a divisive agenda.


Citizenship and Related Issues

Mizoram passes bill to detect “illegal migrants”


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Register of Citizens (NRC)

Mains level: Turmoil over citizenship in North East


  • Mizoram Assembly has passed a bill that seeks to detect “illegal migrants” at the village and town level and bring in punitive measures for those making a false statement during the exercise.

The Mizoram Maintenance of Household Register Bill, 2019

  • The bill is aimed at Chakma residents, who are often suspected to be illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
  • It shall be the responsibility of every householder as well as every member of household in the state to furnish all such information, particulars and passport-size photographs of the members of the household as may be required by the registering authorities reads the bill.
  • The Bill further states that once the information prescribed by the state government is received, the concerned registering authority will compile the details in two distinct registers- one for the citizen residents and another for non-citizen residents of a village/area/town.
  • Information furnished by individuals for the registers would be verified and counter-signed by the president of the local branch of the state-level NGOs as may be designated by the state government from time to time.
  • The Bill says that all government departments and police may use the household registers for administrative purposes, during implementation of development schemes and law enforcement.

Why such move?

  • Influx of foreigners into Mizoram through its porous borders has remained a serious concern for several decades.
  • Mizoram has 510-km unfenced borders with Myanmar and 318-km with Bangladesh.
  • In many cases the benefit of development and welfare programmes are found eaten away to a large extent by such foreigners who clandestinely stayed back and got assimilated in the people.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: PRC Issue


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PRC, Various tribes mentioned

Mains level: Row over PRC



  • Violence erupted in the state over Arunachal Pradesh government’s proposal to grant permanent resident certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities.
  • The state government announced it was considering issuing PRC to six non-Arunachal Scheduled Tribes (APSTs) communities.
  • There is resentment among several community-based groups and organisations who feel the rights and interests of indigenous people will be compromised.

Permanent Resident Certificate

  • Permanent resident certificate is a legal document issued to Indian citizens that serves as evidence of residence and is required to be submitted as residential proof for official purpose.
  • It is a domicile certificate otherwise called as Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) to the residents of the state who stayed therein over a period.
  • Those citizens who are not currently residing in the state but are sure of permanently staying therein can also apply for it.
  • Besides the permanent residence certificate, the State also offers Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) for those who reside in the State on a temporary basis.
  • It enables the citizens to avail various policies and claims made in their particular state.

Communities under Proposal

  • The government in the state is considering issuing the certificate to the six non-APSTs communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.
  • Amongst those communities are Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings.
  • Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam.

Who gets PRC in Arunachal Pradesh?

  • Communities listed as Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes (APST) have been given PRC status.
  • This is because they are considered the original natives of the state.
  • Several other communities have been demanding the status to get domicile-linked benefits.
  • These non-APST communities say that while their names are on land records, they do not get “pattas” (ownership documents).

What is the main bone of contention?

  • The non-APST communities have a sizeable population in neighbouring Assam and enjoy domicile-linked rights in that state.
  • Many of these communities are recognised as STs in Assam, while Morans and Adivasis come under the Other Backward Classes category in Assam.
  • They say that they should have the same rights in Arunachal Pradesh; the APST communities are opposed to this.

Why do APST communities not want other communities to get PRC?

  • APST communities say that giving other communities PRC will dilute the Bengal Eastern Frontier (Regulation) Act 1873, which says that all non-residents and visitors to Arunachal Pradesh must get a permit to travel to the state and stay there.
  • The APST communities say that allowing residency to other communities will lead to many non-tribals entering the state.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] A national register of exclusion


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| I Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the National Register of Citizens.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and concerns with NRC, in a brief manner.


  • By requiring long-term residents of Assam to prove their citizenship by negotiating a thicket made up of opaque rules and an uncaring bureaucracy, the Indian state has for the past two decades unleashed an unrelenting injustice on most of its vulnerable people.

Distressing cycle

  • The official presumption that they are foreigners has reduced several million of these highly impoverished, mostly rural, powerless and poorly lettered residents to a situation of helplessness and penury.
  • It has also caused them abiding anxiety and uncertainty about their futures.
  • They are required to persuade a variety of usually hostile officials that they are citizens, based on vintage documents which even urban, educated, middle-class citizens would find hard to muster.
  • Even when one set of officials is finally satisfied, another set can question them.
  • Sometimes the same official is free again to send them a notice, starting the frightening cycle afresh.

Issue with National Register of Citizens (NRC)

  • It emerged that the names of many persons were dropped from the draft NRC only because of minor differences in the spelling of Bengali names in English in different documents.
  • Several instances were encountered where the variation of a single letter, for example between Omar and Onar, was enough to rule that a person is a foreigner.
  • Likewise, the rural unlettered are typically vague about their dates of birth.
  • A person could be excluded from citizenship if she told the tribunal that she was 40 when her documents recorded her to be 42.

Tougher on women

  • Women are especially in danger of exclusion from the citizenship register.
  • Typically, they have no birth certificates, are not sent to school, and are married before they become adults.
  • Therefore, by the time their names first appear in voters’ lists, these are in the villages where they live after marriage, which are different from those of their parents.
  • They are told that they have no documents to prove that they are indeed the children of the people they claim are their parents.
  • There were cases of being excluded from citizenship on this ground alone.

Migrant workers

  • Impoverished migrant workers often travel to other districts of Assam in search of work, as construction workers, road-builders and coal-miners.
  • In the districts to which they migrate, the local police frequently record their names as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
  • The police then mark them out as illegal immigrants.
  • They receive notices from foreigners’ tribunals located in districts where they might have worked years earlier, far away from their home districts they have to travel to for every hearing, adding further to their costs.

“Doubtful voters”

  • The NRC is not the only institution through which the state challenges them to prove their citizenship.
  • A second process began in the mid-1990s when the then Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan, as a one-time measure, directed officials to identify “doubtful voters” by marking a “D” against their names on the voters’ list.
  • This would temporarily bar them from voting or standing for elections, until an inquiry was completed.

Temporary measure became permanent

  • The power was vested permanently with junior officials who could doubt the citizenship of any person at any time without assigning any reason.
  • Those with the dreaded “D” beside their names had no recourse for appeal under the rules, with years passing without any inquiry.
  • The “D” also debarred them from being included in the draft NRC.

Assam Police is empowered to identify anyone as ‘foreigner’

  • A third process empowers the Assam Police to identify anyone it suspects to be a ‘foreigner’.
  • Again, all that the police claim in most cases is that the person was unable to show them documents establishing his or her citizenship.
  • People consistently deny that the police even asked them from documents.

Opaque processes and Foreigners’ Tribunals

  • All cases referred by the police are heard by Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs).
  • Earlier, retired judges were appointed to these tribunals.
  • The present government has appointed many lawyers who have never been judges.
  • There are now FTs in which not a single person has been declared an Indian citizen over several months.
  • Many allege that both the police and presiding officers in FTs work to fulfil informal targets to declare people foreigners.

Issues with Foreigners’ Tribunals

  • Even if a person finds her name in the NRC, the police can still refer her case to an FT;
  • an election official can even deem her to be a “D”-voter.
  • Article 20 of the Constitution includes as a fundamental right that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once”.
  • But this principle has been waived for FTs.
  • Even after an FT had confirmed a person to be an Indian citizen, another FT and often the same FT can again issue notice to the same person to prove her legitimate citizenship once more.
  • A person is never be allowed to feel secure that the state has finally accepted that she is an Indian citizen.


  • No person was given legal aid by the state, which is bound to deploy lawyers paid by the state to fight their cases in the FTs and higher courts.
  • People instead spoke of panic spending, of enormous amounts of money to pay lawyers, as well as for costs of travel of witnesses who they bring with them to testify in their favour.
  • For this, they have had to sell all their assets or borrow from private moneylenders.
  • The large majority of them are poorly educated and very impoverished, doing low-paid work such as drawing rickshaws, or working as domestic work or farm labour.


  • With the entire burden of proving citizenship on their shoulders and the arbitrary and opaque multiple forums to which they are summoned, people deprived of both education and resources are caught in a bureaucratic maze from which they find it hard to emerge.
  • Trapped at the crossroads of history, their destinies depend on institutions that treat them with undisguised hostility and bias.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Citizenship Bill: the concerns behind Mizoram’s strong protests


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Citizenship Bill

Mains level: Issues with the Citizenship Amendment Bill



  • Among various NE states where protests have broken out over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Mizoram witnessed massive amongst them.
  • These came into focus particularly because of photos, widely circulated on social media, that showed protesters with posters that proclaimed “Hello China, bye bye India”.
  • This protest was organised by the influential Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP).

What the Bill says

  1. The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, relaxing the citizenship eligibility rules for immigrants belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
  2. Read with various other provisions, the cutoff for eligibility becomes December 2014.
  3. Various groups in the NE have protested on grounds of its potential impact on the region’s demography, and questioned its constitutionality as it grants citizenship on the basis of religion.
  4. For protesters in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, the concern is about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
  5. The Assam Accord, protesters in that state point out, lays down 1971 as the cutoff for acceptance as citizens; the NRC is being updated based on this cutoff, which does not differentiate on the basis of religion.

Concerns of Mizoram

  1. In Mizoram, the concern is not about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh but about Chakmas, a tribal and largely Buddhist group.
  2. The Chakmas are present in parts of the Northeast, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, with which Mizoram shares an international border.
  3. While Christians form 87% of Mizoram’s 11 lakh population (2011), Chakmas number about 1 lakh.
  4. Certain sections in Mizoram blame Chakmas for illegal migration from Bangladesh, which the community denies.
  5. The state has seen ethnic violence, with instances of arson, names of Chakmas being struck off voters’ lists, and denial of admission to Chakma students in college.

Data on Chakmas

  1. The apex students’ body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and the YMA, which are leading the current agitation, have often cited figures they attribute to the Census.
  2. In 1901, there were only 198 Chakmas in Mizoram and by 1991 it was over 80,000. The growth rate is far more than normally possible.
  3. This proves their constant influx from Bangladesh.
  4. Chakma activists cite a 2015 report submitted by the government of Mizoram to the NHRC.
  5. The veracity of the Census figures between 1901 and 1941 cannot be ascertained as the same are not available with the Census Directorate, Mizoram,” the then state Deputy Secretary (Home) wrote in the report.
  6. The report cites Census data that puts the Chakma population at 15,297 in 1951 and 96,972 in 2011.

Its Mizos Vs Non-Mizos

  1. Mizos clearly identify the Chakmas as ‘non-Mizo’.
  2. Radical groups often make calls to expel them from Mizoram as they were considered illegal immigrants.
  3. Their large-scale migrations having taken place in 1964 (caused by inundation of their land due to the damming of the Karnaphuli river for a hydro-electric project in Bangladesh) and 1980-4 (caused by insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts led by the Hills Peoples’ Movement of Bangladesh).
  4. Nor did the Chakmas want to identify themselves as Mizo.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Centre to revive National Population Register (NPR)


Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Register of Citizens (NRC), NPR

Mains level: Measures to curb illegal immigration in border areas


  • The Union government has decided to revive ambitious National Register of Indian Citizens project across country as part of drive to identify illegal immigrant.
  • The Centre has decided to give a fresh impetus to the department of the National Population Register (NPR) under the Registrar General of India.

About National Population Register (NPR)

  1. The NPR is a Register of usual residents of the country.
  2. It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  3. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
  4. A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
  5. The objective is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars.

Why such move?

  1. The division had turned almost non-functional after Aadhaar gained supremacy in the NDA government’s agenda in late 2014.
  2. Data for NPR was collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of the Census.
  3. However, the main task assigned to the department for the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) had been shelved by the government.
  4. If a final go-ahead is given by the government, an exercise will be carried out for the creation of two databases.
  5. The NPR’s main task is to generate the NRIC.
  6. The rest will automatically become National Register of Residents or NRR. It is called a filtering process, and involves field verification as well as scrutiny of documents.

In line with NRC

  1. The process for the NRC has been envisaged in the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  2. The NRC exercise in Assam and the subsequent releasing of the data appears to have provided a much-needed push for the NRC project.
  3. The idea of the NRC is being seen as a last-ditch effort to contain the influx of illegal immigrants.
  4. Over 40 lakh people were left out of the Assam NRC in July, and after claims and settlement, a final list will be released.

MPNIC Proposal First Moved In 2000

  1. The Group of Ministers’ (GoM) report after the Kargil war had suggested that the government must identify citizens and non-citizens, and both should be given different identity cards.
  2. Illegal migration has assumed serious proportions.
  3. There should be compulsory registration of citizens and non-citizens living in India which will facilitate preparation of a national register of citizens.
  4. All citizens should be given a Multi-Purpose National Identity Card (MPNIC) and non-citizens should be issued identity cards of a different colour and design.
  5. This should be introduced initially in the border districts, or maybe in a 20-kilometre border belt and extended to the hinterland progressively.

Citizenship and Related Issues

[pib] Cabinet approves high level committee to implement Clause 6 of Assam Accord


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Assam Accord of 1985

Mains level: Various policy safeguards for distinct Assamese community


  • The Union Cabinet chaired has approved the setting up of a High Level Committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003 and other issues related to Bodo community.

Clause 6 of Assam Accord

  1. After Assam agitation of 1979-1985, Assam Accord was signed on 15th August, 1985.
  2. Clause 6 of the Accord envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  3. However, it has been felt that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has not been fully implemented even almost 35 years after the Accord was signed.
  4. Hence the Cabinet approved setting up of a High Level Committee to suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

Mandate of the HLC

  1. The Committee shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
  2. It will hold discussions with all stakeholders and assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam Legislative Assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
  3. It will also assess the requirement of measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
  4. It will look onto quantum of reservation in employment under Government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
  5. It is expected that the setting up of the Committee will pave the way for the implementation of the Assam Accord in letter and spirit and will help fulfil longstanding expectations of the Assamese people.

Other measures for Bodo Community

  1. The Bodo Accord was signed in 2003 which resulted in the establishment of a Bodoland Territorial Council under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  2. However, there have been representations from different organizations of Bodos to fulfil various outstanding demands.
  3. The Cabinet approved the establishment of a Bodo Museum-cum-language and cultural study centre.
  4. It will also undertake modernization of existing All India Radio Station and Doordarshan Kendra at Kokrajhar and naming a Superfast Train passing through BTAD as ARONAI Express.


Assam Accord of 1985

  1. The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985
  2. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979
  3. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord
  4. The accord prescribes deportation for everyone who entered the state illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971.
  • What is citizenship?
  • What does constitution say about citizenship?
  • Special rights enjoyed by citizens
  • Legislations in this regard
  • Termination of citizenship
  • What are OCI and PIO?
  • Merger of OCI and PIO
  • Other changes to citizenship provisions
  • Legislation to give citizenship to minorities
  • Bill to amend citizenship act, 1955

What is citizenship?

Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a member of a country. A person may have multiple citizenships and a person who does not have citizenship of any state is said to be stateless.

What does constitution say about citizenship?

The provisions of citizenship are covered by Articles 5 to 11 and are embodied in Part II of the Constitution.


  • Article 5 refers to citizenship not in any general sense but to citizenship on the date of the commencement of the Constitution.
  • Articles 6 and 7 deal with two categories of persons, namely, those who were resi­dents in India but had migrated to Pakistan and those who were residents in Pakistan but migrated to India.
  • Article 8 deals with Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India
  • Under Article 9 of the Constitution, and person who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of any foreign State, even if qualified for Indian citizenship under any provision of the Constitution, may not be a citizen of India.
  • Article 10 says that every person who is or is deemed to be a citizen of India under any of the foregoing provisions of this Part shall, subject to the provisions of any law that may be made by Parliament, continue to be such citizen.
  • Article 11 deals with power of Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law and states that nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship.

Special rights enjoyed by citizens

Fundamental Rights provided in Indian constitution are available to citizens of India only; some of the fundamental rights which are not enjoyed by a non-citizen of India are:

  • Right to be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, sex, cast or birth of place
  • Equal opportunities in public employment
  • Right of six democratic freedoms (Article 19) + Cultural & educational rights

Only citizens of India have the right:

  • To hold civil office
  • Right to vote
  • Right to be judges of courts

Again, citizens alone have the right to hold certain high offices such as those of the President, Vice-President, Governor of a State, Judge of Supreme Court and High Courts, Attorney General, etc. the right to vote to elect a member of the Lok Sabha and a Vidhan Sabha and the right to become a Member of the Parliament and a State Legislature are reserved for citizens only.

Legislations in this regard

The legislation related to this matter is the Citizenship Act 1955, which has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1992, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2003, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005.


  • Acquisition of Indian Citizenship as per Citizenship Act 1955: Indian Citizenship can be acquired under the following ways:
  1. Citizenship at the commencement of the constitution of India
  2. Citizenship by birth
  3. Citizenship by descent
  4. Citizenship by registration
  5. Citizenship by naturalization.

Termination of Indian Citizenship as per Citizenship Act 1955: One can lose citizenship of India in 3 ways – Renunciation, Termination and Deprivation

There are 3 situations under which a citizen of India may lose his Indian Nationality.

  • By Renunciation: If any citizen of India who is also a national of another country renounces his Indian citizenship through a declaration in the prescribed manner, he ceases to be an Indian citizen of registration of such declaration.
  • By Termination: Any person who acquired Indian citizenship by naturalisation, registration or otherwise,, of he or she voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country he shall have ceased to be a citizen of India from the date of such acquisition.
  • By Deprivation: The Central Government is empowered to deprive a citizen of his citizenship by possible grounds of a citizenship certificate by means of fraud, false representation, concealment of any material fact; disloyalty of disaffection towards the Constitution shown by act or speech; assisting an enemy with whom India is at war.

What are OCI and PIO?


Merger of OCI and PIO and how it will help

The government has decided to merge the two cards of PIO and OCI and go ahead in this direction.

  • Merging PIO and OCI will lead to simplification of the rules under a single umbrella.
  • It was envisaged that merger of the card would facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.
  • This is aimed at simplifying the visa-free entry for people of Indian origin into India.
  • The merger of the two cards could make PIO cardholders eligible for benefits already enjoyed by OCI cardholders.
  • Merging of the two cards will facilitate travel of Indians staying abroad and their participation in various activities in India.

Other changes to citizenship provisions

The Union Cabinet has approved proposals for extending several benefits to ‘persecuted’ minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in India on long-term visas. Many members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have come to India fearing persecution in their home countries.

  • The beneficiaries can buy property for self-occupation or use in self-employment.
  • They are allowed free movement within the State of their stay, and can get their long-term visa papers transferred from one State to another.
  • The government has permitted them to apply for long-term visas from the place of their current residence, even if they have moved to the present place without seeking permission.
  • The government has waived the penalty on late application for extension of their short- or long-term visas. The registration fees for citizenship will be reduced to Rs. 100 from Rs. 3,000-15,000.

Soon, the Citizenship Rules, 2009, will be amended to help such persons get citizenship.

Legislation to give citizenship to minorities

  • In other legislation People belonging to minority communities of Pakistan, staying in India on a Long Term Visa, will soon be able to get citizenship.
  • The Centre will set up a 4-day camp here to grant Indian citizenship to those who migrated to India from Pakistan between 1971 and 2009. The application process is divided into three categories to bucket them according to their year of migration.

Bill to amend citizenship act, 1955

  • The government is also likely to introduce a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955
  • Amendment: Definition of “illegal migrants” to be changed that will enable the government to grant citizenship to minorities
  • The minorities aimed are at mostly Hindus, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have fled their country fearing religious persecution

Read all details about this bill and associated issues here:

[Burning Issues] Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016


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