The most important aspect of the constitutional provisions dealing with citizenship is that it Ms established a uniform or single system of citizenship law for the whole country. A citizen of India is accepted legally as a citizen in every part of the territory of India with almost all the benefits and privileges that attend such a status.
This is in striking contrast to the system of double citizenship that prevails in some federal States. 1 Before the inauguration of the Constitution, there were two broad divisions among Indian citizens, British Indian subjects and State subjects.
Since there were over 500 Indian States, the State subjects themselves were further sub-divided into as many groups of citizens as there were States. Thus, the term Indian citizenship had little precise legal significance except that the Indian people as a whole came under the overall jurisdictions of the British Government that pulled India.
The abolition of such distinctions makes the essential unity of the nation a reality. A single citizenship for the entire country removes much of the artificial State barriers that prevailed in pre- Independence days and facilitates the freedom of trade and commerce throughout the territory of India.
There is, however one barrier still that hinders that full realisation of the ideal of a single citizenship established under the Constitution. This is the existence of what are known as “domiciliary rules” in the different States in India. The term “domicile” is difficult to define.
According to the rules prevailing today, in the different States in India, domicile requirements vary from three to fifteen years’ continuous residence within the State in addition to other conditions. Thus, the status of domicile is given only to a permanent resident of the State.
On the basis of such a distinction, there exist practices in different States which amount to gross discrimination as between citizen and citizen. This also engenders provincialism and parochialism which tends to disrupt the unity of the nation. Domiciliary rules which govern eligibility to public services in most of the States illustrate this point.
Such rules are applied in some States not only to determine eligibility for appointment to public services but also to regulate admission to higher educational institutions, the awards of contracts and rights in respect of fisheries, ferries, toll-bridges, forests and excise shops.
The conditions to be satisfied for acquiring a domicile in some of the States are of such an extremely rigorous nature that it is almost impossible for any person to satisfy them.
It is unnecessary to emphasise that such stipulations are not only inconsistent with the Fundamental Rights of equality before law, equal protection of laws, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and freedom to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business, but strike at the very root of the conception of an Indian citizenship.
Until and unless the artificial restrictions arising out of the still existing domiciliary laws are removed and the citizens are respected and accepted in practice wherever they go within the territory of India, the intention with which the Constituent Assembly passed Part II of the Constitution, and Parliament enacted the citizenship law, will remain only half-fulfilled.
The remedy is the passing of appropriate Parliamentary legislation as contemplated under Article 35 of the Constitution and the strict enforcement thereof. Parliament has already attended to this in so far as it concerns opportunities of public employment.
It has to go a step further and see that the domiciliary rules prevailing in different States do not stand in the way of establishing a truly single citizenship for the country as a whole.