Single Citizenship – UPSC Notes – Indian Polity

Single citizenship means that all Indians, regardless of their residence, hold citizenship for the entire nation and not individual states. While the Indian constitution adopts a federal structure, it confers a single citizenship to all Indians. This ensures that irrespective of their place of residence, all citizens enjoy identical political and civil rights without any differentiation. Similar to the Canadian Constitution, the Indian Constitution establishes a system of single citizenship, ensuring uniform rights (with a few exceptions) for the people of India. This approach aims to nurture a sense of fraternity and unity, contributing to the formation of an integrated Indian nation.

Single Citizenship – Concept

  • Origins from British Constitution: The concept of single citizenship in India is derived from the British Constitution of the United Kingdom.
  • Contrast with Federal Structure: Despite the federal structure of the Indian Constitution, which envisions a dual polity (Centre and states), it establishes only one form of citizenship – Indian citizenship.
  • Allegiance to the Union: Indian citizens owe allegiance solely to the Union, with no provision for separate state citizenship, setting it apart from federal states like the United States and Switzerland that have a system of dual citizenship.
  • Uniform Rights Nationwide: In India, all citizens, regardless of birthplace or residence, enjoy the same political and civil rights across the entire country, devoid of any discrimination.
  • Citizenship Act of 1955: The Citizenship Act of 1955, amended over the years, provides provisions for acquiring and losing citizenship after the enactment of the Indian Constitution. It covers citizenship based on birth, descent, registration, naturalization, and incorporation of territory.

Reasons for Adoption of Single Citizenship

  1. Elimination of Discrimination:
    • In the United States, individuals are citizens of both the country and the specific state they belong to, leading to potential discrimination. States may favor their citizens in rights like voting, holding public office, and practicing professions. Single citizenship in India prevents such discrimination.
  2. Avoidance of Dual Sets of Rights:
    • The U.S. system results in citizens enjoying dual sets of rights – one granted by the national government and another by the state government. This can create complexities and inequalities. India’s single citizenship system ensures uniform rights for all citizens across the nation.
  3. Promotion of Emotional and National Unity:
    • Adopting dual citizenship might undermine emotional and national unity. When citizens feel a stronger connection to their state rather than the entire country, it can hinder the overall sense of unity. Single citizenship in India helps foster a unified national identity.
  4. Prevention of State-Centric Focus:
    • Dual citizenship systems may lead to citizens prioritizing their state over the entire country. In India’s single citizenship model, the focus is on a unified national identity, reducing the likelihood of regional bias or preference.

Significance of Single Citizenship in India’s Context

In India, the concept of single citizenship holds significant importance for several reasons:

  1. Uniform Rights Nationwide:
    • All citizens, irrespective of their state of birth or residence, enjoy identical political and civil rights across the entire country. This ensures there is no discrimination based on regional factors.
  2. Fostering Nationalism and Patriotism:
    • The system fosters a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism by emphasizing the commonality of citizenship. It encourages individuals to identify with the entire nation rather than just their specific state, promoting a cohesive national identity.
  3. Unity Amidst Regional and Cultural Differences:
    • By recognizing only a single citizenship, the system plays a crucial role in promoting unity among diverse regional and cultural differences within the country. It strengthens the idea of India as a diverse yet unified nation.
  4. Freedom of Movement:
    • The system promotes the fundamental rights of citizens, such as the freedom to move and reside in any part of the country without facing discrimination. This contributes to a sense of belonging and inclusion for all citizens.
  5. Image of a United India:
    • The concept of single citizenship has played a vital role in shaping the image of a united India. It reflects the commitment to a shared identity and collective citizenship, reinforcing the idea of India as a single, united entity.

Exceptions to Single Citizenship in India

  1. Residence Requirement for Employment (Article 16):
    • The Parliament, under Article 16, can mandate residence within a state or union territory as a requirement for certain employment or appointments. The Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Act, 1957, allowed residency requirements for non-gazetted posts in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura. However, this provision is no longer applicable, except in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  2. Non-Discrimination Based on Residence (Article 15):
    • While Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, gender, or place of birth, it does not extend this protection to residence. States can offer special benefits or preferences to their residents in matters outside the constitutional rights granted to Indian citizens.
  3. Freedom of Movement and Residence (Article 19):
    • The freedom of movement and residence under Article 19 is subject to the protection of the interests of scheduled tribes. This restricts outsiders’ rights to enter, reside, and settle in tribal areas to safeguard the distinct culture, language, customs, and property of scheduled tribes.
  4. Special Rights and Privileges in Jammu and Kashmir (Article 35-A):
    • Until 2019, Article 35-A empowered the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature to define “permanent residents” and confer special rights and privileges related to employment, property acquisition, settlement, and government aid. This article aimed to protect the unique identity of Jammu and Kashmir.

The idea of single citizenship in India, inspired by the British Parliament, emphasizes individual identity as a native of the country. The objective is to foster unity and patriotism, preventing regionalism and divisive tendencies. The adoption of single citizenship aims to safeguard the nation’s unity and integrity, favoring it over the potential disintegrating forces associated with double citizenship.

FAQs on Single Citizenship in India

1. Why does India have a system of single citizenship?

Answer: India adopted a system of single citizenship to eliminate discrimination and ensure uniform political and civil rights for all citizens nationwide. This approach prevents complexities and inequalities associated with dual citizenship, fostering a sense of fraternity and national unity.

2. How does India’s single citizenship differ from federal states like the United States?

Answer: In India, despite its federal structure, there is only one form of citizenship – Indian citizenship. Unlike federal states such as the United States, where citizens hold both national and state citizenship, India’s system emphasizes allegiance solely to the Union, avoiding dual sets of rights.

3. What are the reasons behind the adoption of single citizenship in India?

Answer: Single citizenship in India was adopted to eliminate discrimination, avoid dual sets of rights, promote emotional and national unity, and prevent state-centric focus. This system aims to foster a unified national identity and discourage regional bias or preference among citizens.

4. What exceptions exist to India’s system of single citizenship?

Answer: While India follows a system of single citizenship, there are exceptions such as residence requirements for employment under Article 16, non-discrimination based on residence in Article 15, restrictions on movement and residence in tribal areas under Article 19, and special rights and privileges in Jammu and Kashmir under Article 35-A (until 2019).

5. How does the concept of single citizenship contribute to India’s national identity?

Answer: Single citizenship in India ensures uniform rights nationwide, fosters nationalism and patriotism, promotes unity amidst regional and cultural differences, facilitates freedom of movement, and contributes to the image of a united India. It emphasizes a shared identity and collective citizenship, reinforcing the idea of India as a single, integrated nation.

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