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Citizenship And Issue Of Citizenship In Assam (Assam Accord)

Recently Supreme Court of India constituted a new Constitutional bench to hear three important cases which have been pending for a while. One of these 3 cases is Assam Public Works v. Union of India & Ors., In this case, the constitutional validity of section 6A of the Citizenship Act,1955 is challenged, this section was inserted in the Citizenship Act,1955 by the Citizenship Amendment Act,1985 after the Assam accord was agreed upon by the Government of India and the leaders of Assam movement along with former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta.

This Section describes any persons who came to the territory of Assam after the 1st of January 1966 but before the 25th of March 1971 from the specified territory which includes all the territory of present Bangladesh upon inception of the Citizenship Amendment Act,1985 must register themselves under specified rules of Citizenship.

This Article is about the Meaning, Importance of Citizenship and Provisions related to Citizenship in the Indian Constitution and Highlights the main issues of the Assam Citizenship case that is pending before the Supreme Court of India.

Citizenship: Meaning

In layman's terms, citizenship is the relationship between a state and an individual. It is an allegiance of a person to a state subjected to protection. Each state ascertains the condition under which it will recognize power as a citizen and the state of affairs under which the status will be withdrawn.

Citizenship is considered as the most privileged form of nationality at which a person has certain rights and obligations in the country as comparison to non-citizens.[i]

Importance of Citizenship in India

Citizenship has numerous aid otherwise without it the person would be stateless. Along with the protection, citizenship gives a person the right to vote, contest in elections, hold constitutional posts and reap benefits of government schemes and advantages from public authority given only to citizens of India. In inclusion of this, our Indian constitution enshrined basic human rights, called fundamental rights that act as a foundation and hold the democratic system of India.

Fundamental rights are the basic enjoyment rights that are given to every person but some of the rights can only be enjoyed or avail by the Indian Citizen only such as:

  • Article 15: It prohibits discrimination on the basis of place of birth, sex, religion, or any of these.
  • Article 16: It enacts equal opportunities for Indian citizens for employment under the state.
  • Article 19: It provides the freedom to citizens for Speech and Expression, Assembly, Association, Movement, Settlement, and Residence along with Freedom of Profession, occupation, and business or trade.
  • Article 29: It enacts protection to minorities and gives them the right to conserve their culture.
  • Article 30: It enacts rights to minority citizens to initiate and administer educational institutions based on language or religion.

Provision Related to Citizenship in the Constitution of India

Part II of the Indian constitution specifies the provisions related to citizenship in India.

Article 5: Every Person who is at the Commencement of the Indian Constitution has a domicile in India and,
  • Who was born in India; or
  • Either of Whose parents was born in India
  • Who has been ordinarily resident in India for not less than 5 years immediately after the commencement of the Indian Constitution, shall be a citizen of India.
Article 6: It provides rights of citizenship to persons who migrated from Pakistan to the territory of India.
  • Article 6 lays down that any person who migrated to India before the 19th of July 1948 shall be deemed to be a citizen of India if at least one of his parents or grandparents was born in India.
  • But if any person migrated after the 19th of July 1948, they had to register themselves by the officer appointed by the Govt. of India.

Article 7: It provides rights of citizenship to certain migrants to Pakistan.
  • Those who migrated to Pakistan after the 1st of March 1947 but migrated back to India on resettlement permits shall be deemed to be a citizen of India.
Article 8: It provides rights of citizenship to certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India.
  • Any person residing outside the territory of India and who, whose either of his parents or grandparents were born in India Could register himself as a citizen of India with the Indian Diplomatic Mission.
Article 9: Article 9 lays down that if any person acquires citizenship of any foreign state (Voluntarily) then he will no longer be a citizen of India.

Article 10: Article 10 provides that every person who is or is deemed to be a citizen of India under articles 5,6,7,8 and 9 of the Indian constitution will continue to be a citizen of India irrespective of the provisions of law that may be made by the Parliament of India.

Article 11: It provides power to the Parliament of India to make any provisions concerning the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to Citizenship[iii]

Citizenship Issue in Assam and Assam Accord

The Assam movement was held in 1979 to 1985 a long six-year movement and the main demand of this movement is the revision in the NRC (National Registration of Citizens), Deletion, Detention and Deportation of people who had entered in Assam illegally after 1951. The Assam Movement long six-year movement led to the historic Assam Accord 1985 which was agreed by the Government of India and the head of the Assam movement along with former Chief Minister of Assam Prafulla Mahanta.

The Assam accord sets the 25th of March 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation for the people who entered in India illegally although the cut-off date given in Articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution of India was 19th of July 1949 to give imposition to the new date, Citizenship Act, 1955, was amended and a new section (6A) was interpolated in the Citizenship Act, 1955.[iv]

Section 6A
  • Do Not hyperlink: This section was only applicable to Assam.
  •  It said that all the persons of Indian origin who entered in Assam before the 1st of January 1966 and have been ordinary residents will be deemed Indian citizens.
  •  Those who came after the 1st of January 1966 but before the 25th of March 1971 and have been ordinary residents will get citizenship at the expiry of 10 years from their detection as a foreigner, during the period of 10 years they will not get the Right to vote but can get an Indian passport."[v]

Main Issues in the case of Assam Public Works V. Union of India & Ors:
  1. Does Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, contravene the provisions of the Constitution of India?
  2. Can the fact that immigrants from East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) have been treated as citizens for over four decades serve as a basis for seeking any form of relief or benefit?
  3. Is it possible to subject the Assam Accord (Memorandum of Settlement) between the Government of India, the state of Assam, the All Assam Student Union, and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, which was reached to address a longstanding political issue and is of significant policy importance, to judicial review at this point? Courts are likely to refrain from delving into this "political thicket" due to the enormous scale and consequences associated with such matters.
  4. Can the Immigrants (Expulsions from Assam) Act, 1940, which is a specific law related to immigrants in Assam, exclusively apply to immigrants from East Pakistan/Bangladesh, excluding the general Foreigners Act and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, created under it?
  5. Do children born in India to illegal migrants who arrived after March 25, 1971, from the designated regions in Assam have the right to obtain citizenship?[vi]

India, a nation that upholds the principle of "Vasudhavia Kutumbakam" (the world is one family), should exercise caution when making decisions that could lead to the exclusion of its citizens. This goes against the deeply rooted values that India has followed for centuries. It is crucial for the Central Government to clearly outline the plan of action regarding individuals excluded from the final Assam NRC (National Registration of Citizens) list, and political parties should avoid using the NRC process for electoral gains, as this could potentially spark communal violence. An overly legalistic approach may only intensify tension, insecurity, and apprehension.

  1. (Romila Thapar, 2016)
  2. (Seervai, 2018)
  3. (Shukla, 2023)
  4. (Pisharoty, 2019)
  5. (Lexis Nexis, 2022)
  6. (BARUAH, 2022)

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Alisha Ali Usmani & Uday Raj Chauhan
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Authentication No: SP363742859935-28-0923

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