Understanding Citizenship


This post has been written by Sukhleen Kaur Saluja a 1st year Law student from Amity University, Chhattisgarh.


India is a democratic country where all live freely. In today world citizenship is sought to be extended to all the member of nation-state without discrimination on the ground of race, caste, colour, religion, sex etc. Citizenship is the relationship between state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Citizenship is the status of being citizen. If you have citizenship in a country, you have right to live there, vote, work, pay taxes.


Citizenship refers to the status of an individual as a full and responsible member of a political community. So, citizen is person who owes allegiance to the state and in turn receives protection from the state. He must fulfill his duties and obligations towards the state as the state grants civil, political and social rights.


The idea of citizenship in its early form is found in ancient Greek and roman state systems. The form of ancient Greek community was entirely different from the present political community. Now in modern democratic state all member of a community are regarded as citizens, but in ancient many few enjoyed status of “freemen”. There were no distinction between rich and poor but rest of the community comprised of slaves, alien and women who had no right of citizenship. That is why Aristotle regarded citizenship as a privilege of ruling class. In ancient political tradition, this privilege of the ruling class was also regarded as to be the part of their duty. After the decline of Greek city-states, a new definition of citizenship was evolved in the “Roman Empire”.

The medieval Europe, political authority was eclipsed by ecclesiastical authority. In the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, with the advent of modern thought, the idea of citizenship again occupied the center-stage in Italian republics.

The idea of citizenship reached its zenith with French revolution and the consequent Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. The end of 19th, the ascendancy of liberalism gave rise to market relations which promoted a new notion of citizenship. The idea of natural rights came to be regarded as basis Locke had argued that the Right to life, liberty and property was the mantasy of natural rights. of citizenship and if individual fail to protect this rights they are free to exercise ‘right to resistance’ against state.


In the present-day society, substantive is defined in terms of three important components: civil, political and social rights. T.H. Marshall identified three stages of development of the rights associated with citizenship in England since the eighteen century:

  1. At the first stage, civil rights
  2. At the second stage, political rights.
  3. At the third stage, social rights were developed in the twentieth century. These included: the right to a certain standard of economic and social welfare, the right to full share in the social heritage. The courts protect the civil rights of the citizens; representative political bodies protect their political rights; social service and school provide for their social rights. In short, the evolution of citizenship was completed with the development of welfare state.
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These components of citizenship, viz. civil, political and social rights have to be developed in each state that claims to be humane and progressive.


 The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was passed in the Parliament on December 11, 2019. This act amended the citizenship act 1955 allowing Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who fled from the neighboring Muslim majority countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, before 2014 due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution. However, the act excludes Muslim. This act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya because of being included in 6th schedule of Constitution. Also the areas that fall under the Inner limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview.

The basic amendment that 2019 brings to 1955 act? Non –Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbor- Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan will be granted citizenship, provided they entered India before 31st December 2014. The act does not explicitly state that Muslims are barred , however , the fact that it spells out the religious communities that will benefit from the amendment make it clear that Muslim have been kept out.            


The original concept of citizenship exclusively focused on the sense of duty where the questions of rights were relegated to the background. In contemporary society citizenship is primarily concerned with certain rights. In modern democratic state, all member of a community are regarded as its citizens without any discrimination.

[1] https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/explainer-citizenship-amendment-bill-2019


Image from IMF.Org.


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