Akshay Kumar Row : Understanding Indian Citizenship Law

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It has been
rightly said that citizenship is the chance to make a difference to the place
where you belong. Being citizen of a country entitles an individual to several
privileges and rights, which she/he can exercise to contribute to the nation’s
building. For instance, in India only citizens have freedom of speech and
expression and protection against discrimination, as a fundamental right.
Similarly, only a citizen is allowed to run for a public office. However, in
addition to the privileges, it is a sense of belongingness that makes
citizenship such a personal aspect for an individual. An individual resonates
with the idea and vision of the country, she/he is a citizen of.

In India,
citizenship of celebrities and politicians has always been a burning issue. On
the political front the Gandhi family has been at the receiving end of
questions on their citizenship, whereas from the entertainment industry,
Bollywood Star Akshay Kumar has been questioned time and again regarding his
citizenship status. While the Gandhi family has come
against all challenges on their citizenship, the same cannot be
said about the Bollywood star. In the present post, I aim to put to rest the
question whether Akshay Kumar is a Citizen of India, as per the Indian law.

I shall
begin the post, by first discussing the law on citizenship in India i.e. who
can be a citizen of India, how can a citizenship be acquired and terminated
respectively. This shall be followed up by analyzing the citizenship row over
Mr. Akshay Kumar. It should be noted that Mr. Kumar has made several
contradictory claims about his citizenship status. For instance, at one press
conference he claimed having a dual citizenship, whereas in the other he
claimed to have an honorary citizenship from Canada. Recently, the star has
admitted to having a Canadian citizenship. I shall be analyzing the legality of
all the above claims in the present post.

  1. Law on Citizenship in India-

At the
outset, I wish to clarify that the terms ‘citizenship’ and ‘nationality’ are
not synonyms and should not be used interchangeably. Citizenship is a concept
of the domestic/municipal law of a country and determines the rights and duties
an individual has. Nationality on the other hand is an international law
concept and concerns a natural or artificial person, for example a company or
corporation. For instance, a company registered in India and owned by a Swiss
businessman, shall have Indian nationality, but it will not be considered a
citizen of India. Therefore, every citizen has her/his country’s nationality
but the vice versa is not true [
Trading Corporation v. Commercial Tax Officer
, AIR 1963 SC 1811].

The law on
citizenship in India is provided under the
Constitution of India (Part
, the Citizenship
Act, 1955
(as amended in 1986) and the Citizenship

  1. How does one
    acquire Indian Citizenship?

individual can acquire any Indian citizenship by four ways i.e. by birth, by
descent, by registration and by naturalization. Each one of them is explained

Citizenship by Birth (§ 3):

person who is born in India, and either of whose parent is a citizen of India
at the time of her/his birth and is not an illegal migrant, automatically
becomes a citizen of India by birth.

Citizenship by Descent (§ 4):

individual, who is born outside India and either of whose parent is a citizen
of India at the time of her/his birth, shall be a citizen of India by descent.
The only requirement is that her/his birth should be registered with the Indian
consulate within 1 year of occurrence, along with a declaration that the minor
does not hold a passport of any other country.

Citizenship by Registration (§ 5):

individual not born in India or neither of whose parent is a citizen of India
can apply for the citizenship by registration. For such an application, the
individual should fall in either of the following category:

  • She/he is a person of Indian origin and is
    an ordinary resident in India for a period of 7 years immediately
    preceding her/his application.

  • She/he is a person of Indian origin and is
    an ordinary resident in any country or place outside undivided India.

  • She/he is married to a citizen of India
    and is an ordinary resident in India for a period of 7 years immediately
    preceding her/his application.

  • She/he is a minor child of persons who are
    citizens of India.

  • She/he is a person who has been registered
    as an overseas citizen of India for five years and has been residing in India
    for one year before making the application.

In addition
to the above, the applicant has to take an oath of allegiance. Ordinarily, a
person who has renounced his Indian citizenship before or whose citizenship has
been terminated by the Indian government, cannot apply for citizenship by
registration. However, the central government may exempt any of the above
requirements, for reasons recorded in writing.

Sonia Gandhi (formerly known as Ms. Antonia Maino) acquired the Indian Citizen
through registration. She was a former citizen of Italy and married an Indian
citizen Shri Rajiv Gandhi. Her citizenship received the Court’s approval in
Rakesh Singh v. Sonia Gandhi
(Allahabad High Court). Similarly, Bollywood actor
has also obtained her Indian citizenship through registration.
Born in Denmark, the actor was granted citizenship by registration, as she was
a child of persons who are citizens of India.

Citizenship by Naturalization (§ 6):

who are neither born in India, not related to Indian citizens by blood or by
soil or are not married to Indian citizens, can apply for Indian citizenship
through naturalization. An applicant seeking citizenship by naturalization has
to conform to the following qualifications:

  • She/he is not a citizen of a country where
    citizens of India are prevented by law or practice, from becoming citizens
    of that country by naturalization.

[For instance, if country A prohibits Indian
citizens from becoming its citizens by naturalization, citizens of country A
also cannot seek a citizenship by naturalization in India.]

  • She/he undertakes to renounce (give up)
    the citizenship of her/his country in the event of his application being

  • She/he has resided in India or been in the
    service of the government of India throughout the period of twelve months
    preceding his application.

  • She/he has resided in India or been in the
    service of the government of India for 14 years preceding the above twelve
    months from the date of her/his application.

  • She/he is of good character.

  • She/he has an adequate knowledge of a
    language specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.

The central government has the power to waive
of all the above qualifications for an individual who in its opinion has
rendered distinguished service to the cause of science, philosophy, art,
literature, world peace or human progress.

singer Adnan Sami
and Dalai Lama were granted an Indian citizenship by the
Government of India through naturalization.

Although registration and naturalization appear
similar, the two processes are very different. Registration as a category has a
better chance of grant of citizenship by either marriage to an Indian citizen
or by having ancestors who are citizens of India. Naturalization on the other
hand, covers individuals who are not married to Indian citizens and not related
to Indian citizens by blood or soil, but have done distinguished
services to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature and world peace
of human progress etc. or having long stay in India. Usually, citizenship by
registration is granted faster than citizenship by naturalisation.

individual has a right to grant of citizenship by registration if she/he
fulfils the conditions, whereas one has no right to grant of citizenship by
naturalisation, as it is granted on the pleasure of the government [
Rakesh Singh v. Sonia Gandhi,
2011 SCC Online All 266].

An application for citizenship has to be
submitted to the Collector, within whose jurisdiction the applicant is
ordinarily resident. Once the application is received, it is forwarded to the
state government to check whether the application satisfies the requirements
under law and is of good character i.e. fit to be registered or naturalized as
a citizen of India. The state government then forwards the application to the
Central Government, which assess whether the state government scrutinized the
application as per law and whether the applicant is of good character. On
successful scrutiny, the applicant is issued a certificate of citizenship.

  1. How does one
    cease to be a Citizen of India?

An Indian citizen can lose her/his citizenship
in three ways i.e. by renunciation, by termination and by deprivation. These
concepts are explained below:

By Renunciation (§ 8):

A person may renounce their Indian citizenship,
by submitting a declaration to that effect to the prescribed authority. On
registration, the individual and her/his minor child shall cease to be citizens
of India as well. The minor child on attaining majority, has the option of
resuming the Indian citizenship by submitting an application to the concerned
authority, within a year of attaining majority.

By Termination (§ 9):

Indian law does not recognize dual citizenship
and therefore, an individual ceases to be an Indian citizen, once she/he
acquires citizenship of another country. This point has been reiterated by the Courts
on numerous occasions.

Dual Citizenship should not be confused with an
Overseas citizen, a concept introduced in 2005. An overseas citizen is a person
of Indian origin, who was an Indian citizen but acquired a foreign citizenship
later. An overseas citizen should not be confused with a citizen of India, as
they only have ease of visas and certain economic, financial and educational
benefits. They do not enjoy the rights and privileges which an Indian citizen

By Deprivation (§ 10):

Central government may by an order deprive an individual who acquired her/his
citizenship by registration or naturalization, if the following conditions are

  • Registration
    or Certificate of Naturalization was obtained by means of fraud,
    misrepresentation or concealment.
  • She/he
    has shown himself to be disloyal or disaffectionate towards the Constitution of
  • She/he
    communicated with enemy during war.
  • She/he
    has been sentenced to life imprisonment in a country, within five years of
    obtaining the citizenship of India.
  • She/he
    has been an ordinary resident outside India for a continuous period of 7 years
    (unless the purpose of residence was academic or government service).

a person should not be deprived of their citizenship; however, the government
may do so if it is conducive to public good. An individual so deprived has the
right to a fair hearing.

  1. Akshay Kumar’s
    citizenship row

Kumar has been riding high on the patriotism wave through his movies, making his
own citizenship status a talk of the town, more than any other celebrity. The
actor has given
to the questions of his citizenship. At one instance, he has
claimed to have a dual citizenship, while on the other he has claimed to hold
an honorary citizenship of Canada. Both these claims are false.

First, as
discussed before, India does not recognize the concept of dual citizenship and
an individual ceases to be an Indian citizen, on acquiring a foreign
citizenship. Therefore, Akshay ceased to be an Indian citizen, once he acquired
the Canadian citizenship.

Second, the
concept of honorary citizenship does not exist in India. To confirm my claim, I
filed an RTI with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which verified that there is no
provision for an honorary citizenship under the Indian law (attached below).
Further, only six individuals have been awarded an honorary citizenship by
Canada and Akshay is not one of them. Therefore, as per law Akshay had ceased
to be an Indian citizen long ago, if any of his statements are to be believed.

 Concluding Remarks:

Two months
ago, Akshay Kumar came out clean and admitted to having a Canadian passport,
finally putting the issue to rest. While no one has the right to judge him for
his decision on the citizenship, the incorrect answers and the evasion by the
actor was what troubled many.

of a country is an individual’s personal choice and one should not pass any
judgment on the same. However, when an actor becomes the benchmark of
patriotism for a nation, questions are bound to arise. The audience wonders why
the man, who interviews our Prime Minister on national television before the
elections, swears his allegiance to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth/laws of Canada
and not the Constitution of India.

( The author
is a lawyer based in New Delhi. He graduated from National law University,
Jodhpur with a specialization in Constitutional Law. The post was first
published on the author’s personal blog
‘Basic’ Structure”
. Views are personal)

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