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Dual Nationality - An Impossibility for NRIs?
There has been a long-standing demand from the ever-increasing Indian Diaspora for providing Dual Nationality to people of Indian origin settled abroad. Is it a possibility. Can it be achieved. Does law permit it to be granted. The questions concerning dual nationality or dual citizenship not only capture individual dilemmas but also pose momentous questions of national and international policy and law. Both individual and collective community issues arise especially as globalization and cross border migration is rapidly advancing. Several countries are now seeing the advantages of dual citizenship and are liberalizing their citizenship laws. But, the recent statement made by Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr. Vayalar Ravi affirming that the Indian government does not propose to issue ‘Dual Passports’ to NRIs makes dual citizenship an impossibility for the 25 million NRI’s living in 110 countries worldwide.
The question of nationality or citizenship of individuals, the conferment as well as its deprivation are complicated issues, which entail numerous legal implications. There is still another side to the coin, so far as Indian law is concerned. The Constitution of India provides for a single citizenship for the entire country in the territory of India. The provisions relating to citizenship in the Constitution of India are contained in Articles 5 to 11 in Part II of the Constitution of India. Article 9 of the Constitution of India clearly mandates that no person shall be a citizen of India by virtue of Article 5, or be deemed to be a citizen of India by virtue of Article 6 or Article 8, if he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of any foreign State.
Thus, it becomes abundantly clear that an Indian citizen cannot have dual nationality. Therefore, if an Indian citizen voluntarily acquires citizenship of any foreign state, then, such Indian citizen has to give up or relinquish all rights as an Indian citizen as the Indian Constitution does not permit an Indian citizen to simultaneously have citizenship of any other country. Further, termination of Indian citizenship is covered in Section 9 of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The provisions for termination are separate and distinct under Section 9 apart from the provisions for making a declaration of renunciation which are dealt with separately under Section 8.
Section 9(1) of the Act provides that any citizen of India who by naturalisation or registration acquires the citizenship of another country shall cease to be a citizen of India. It also provides that any citizen of India who voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country shall cease to be a citizen of India. Section 9 is a complete code in itself as regards the termination of Indian Citizenship on voluntary acquisition of the citizenship of a foreign country.
In exercise of powers under Section 18 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, the Government of India has made the Citizenship Rules 1956. The acquisition of another country’s passport is also deemed to be voluntary acquisition of another country’s nationality under the Citizenship Rules, 1956. Rule 30 of the Citizenship Rules 1956 in this regard authorizes the Central Government to determine the acquisition of citizenship of another country.
Further, para 3 of Schedule III of the Citizenship Rules, 1956 states that “the fact that a citizen of India has obtained on any date a passport from the Government of any other country shall be conclusive proof of his having voluntarily acquired the citizenship of that country before that date”.
In view of the position stated above, it may be commented that persons who acquire citizenship of another country lose Indian citizenship from the date on which they acquire such citizenship of a foreign country or another country’s passport.
In this backdrop, it can be said that both the Constitution of India and the Indian Citizenship Act,1955 prohibit Dual Citizenship and holding of two Nationalities simultaneously of two different countries. Accordingly, in January 2005, the Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended to carve out a limited category of overseas citizenship and registration of overseas citizens of India (OCI). Dual nationality is a concept which does not find recognition in the Constitution of India. NRIs therefore, can be only OCIs and not Indian citizens as per the Constitution of India. To return to the homeland permanently from overseas shores, the foreign mantle must go. If the NRI does not wish to shelve it, he will remain a foreigner in India.
(The writer, a Chandigarh based lawyer with specialization in NRI Family Law, has co-authored the book, Acting for Non-Resident Indian Clients (London, 2005). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)