Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 I Citizenship Act I Frontier IAS
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Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 I Citizenship Act I Frontier IAS

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Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 I Citizenship Act I Frontier IAS

In this article were will discuss the Citizenship Act

Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

Sahin Bagh agitation Picture


In this video Citizenship Act and Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 has been explained. 

What will be discussed in this video?

  • Criteria for determining citizenship in India
  • Which Act Covers citizenship in India
  • How the Bill proposes to change the criteria
  • Key changes proposed by the Bill
  • The conferment of a person as a citizen of India is governed by Part II of the Constitution of India (Articles 5 to 11). 
  • According to Article 5, all the people that were resident in India at the commencement of the Constitution were citizens of India as well as people born in India. The President of India is termed the First Citizen of India.
  • The Indian legislation related to this matter is The Citizenship Act, 1955, which has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Acts of 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015 and 2019.
  • The 1986 amendment restricted citizenship by birth to require that at least one parent had to be an Indian citizen. 
  • The 2003 amendment further restricted that aspect by requiring that a parent could not be an illegal immigrant. 
  • The 2003 amendment also mandated the Government of India to construct a National Register of Citizens.

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Citizenship Amendment Act

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, and seeks to make foreign illegal migrants of certain religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship.  

How is citizenship acquired in India?

In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955.  The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods :

  • By birth 
  • By descent
  • Through registration
  • By naturalisation (extended residence in India)
  • By incorporation of territory into India.


By Birth:

  • Every person born in India on or after 26.01.1950 but before 01.07.1987 is an Indian citizen irrespective of the nationality of his/her parents.
  • Every person born in India between 01.07.1987 and 02.12.2004 is a citizen of India given either of his/her parents is a citizen of the country at the time of his/her birth.
  • Every person born in India on or after 3.12.2004 is a citizen of the country given both his/her parents are Indians or at least one parent is a citizen and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of birth.

By Registration: 

  • A person of Indian origin who has been a resident of India for 7 years before applying for registration.
  • A person of Indian origin who is a resident of any country outside undivided India.
  • A person who is married to an Indian citizen and is ordinarily resident for 7 years before applying for registration.
  • Minor children of persons who are citizens of India.

By Descent:

  • A person born outside India on or after January 26, 1950 is a citizen of India by descent if his/her father was a citizen of India by birth.
  • A person born outside India on or after December 10, 1992, but before December 3, 2004 if either of his/her parent was a citizen of India by birth.
  • If a person born outside India on or after December 3, 2004 has to acquire citizenship, his/her parents have to declare that the minor does not hold a passport of another country and his/her birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of birth.

By Naturalisation:

  • A person can acquire citizenship by naturalisation if he/she is ordinarily resident of India for 12 years (throughout 12 months preceding the date of application and 11 years in the aggregate) and fulfils all qualifications in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act.
  • The Act does not provide for dual citizenship or dual nationality. It only allows citizenship for a person listed under the provisions above ie: by birth, descent, registration or naturalisation.

Can illegal migrants acquire citizenship?

  • An illegal migrant is prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship. 
  • An illegal immigrant is a foreigner who either enters India illegally, i.e., without valid travel documents, like a visa and passport, or enters India legally, but stays beyond the time period permitted in their travel documents.  An illegal migrant can be prosecuted in India, and deported or imprisoned.   
  • In September 2015 and July 2016, the central government exempted certain groups of illegal migrants from being imprisoned or deported.  These are illegal migrants who came into India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan on or before December 31, 2014, and belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian religious communities.  

How does the Act seek to change the criteria for determining citizenship?

  • The Act proposes that the specified class of illegal migrants from the three countries will not be treated as illegal migrants, making them eligible for citizenship. 
  • On acquiring citizenship, such migrants shall be deemed to be Indian citizens from the date of their entry into India and all legal proceedings regarding their status as illegal migrants or their citizenship will be closed.
  • The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years. For the specified class of illegal migrants, the number of years of residency has been relaxed from 11 years to five years.

Are the provisions of the Act applicable across the country?

  • The Act clarifies that the proposed amendments on citizenship to the specified class of illegal migrants will not apply to certain areas. 
  • These are: (i) the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and (ii) the states regulated by the “Inner Line” permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations 1873.  
  • These Sixth Schedule tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.   Further, the Inner Line Permit regulates visit of all persons, including Indian citizens, to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

Is the differentiation among the specified class of illegal migrants and all other illegal migrants reasonable?

  • The Act makes only certain illegal migrants eligible for citizenship.  These are persons belonging to the six specified religious communities, from the three specified countries, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, and do not reside in the Sixth Schedule areas or in the states regulated by the Inner Line Permit states. 
  • This implies that all other illegal migrants will not be able to claim the benefit of citizenship conferred by the Bill, and may continue to be prosecuted as illegal migrants.  
  • Any provision which distinguishes between two groups may violate the standard of equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution, unless one can show a reasonable rationale for doing so.   


  • The Bill provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of (a) their country of origin, (b) religion, (c) date of entry into India, and (d) place of residence in India.   
  • The Bill classifies migrants based on their country of origin to include only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  
  • While the Statement of Objects and Reasons (SoR) in the Bill reasons that millions of citizens of undivided India were living in Pakistan and Bangladesh, no reason has been provided to explain the inclusion of Afghanistan. 
  • The SoR also states that these countries have a state religion, which has resulted in religious persecution of minority groups.  
  • However, there are other countries which may fit this qualification.   For instance, two of India’s neighboring countries, Sri Lanka (Buddhist state religion) and Myanmar (primacy to Buddhism) have had a history of persecution of Tamil Eelams (a linguistic minority in Sri Lanka), and the Rohingya Muslims, respectively. 
  • Further, there are other religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, such as the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan (considered non-Muslims in that country) , and atheists in Bangladesh who have faced religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India.  
  • The Act creates further differentiation between the specified class of illegal migrants based on when they entered India (before or after December 31, 2014), and where they live in India (provisions not applicable to Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit areas)

How does the Bill change the regulations for Overseas Citizens of India?

  • The Bill also amends the provisions on registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).
  • OCI cardholders are foreigners who are persons of Indian origin. For example, they may have been former Indian citizens, or children of current Indian citizens. 
  • An OCI enjoys benefits such as the right to travel to India without a visa, or to work and study here. 
  • At present, the government may cancel a person’s OCI registration on various grounds specified in the Act.  In case of a cancellation, an OCI residing in India may be required to leave the country. 


  • The Bill adds another ground for cancelling OCI registration — violation of any law notified by the central government. 
  • However, the Bill does not provide any guidance on the nature of laws which the central government may notify.  The Supreme Court has noted that this guidance is necessary to set limits on the authority’s powers and to avoid any arbitrariness in exercise of powers. 
  •  herefore, the powers given to the government under the Bill may go beyond the permissible limits of valid delegation. 

What is the controversy around the Act?

  • The fundamental criticism of the Act 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 Act aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.