Citizenship and the Constitution
13 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 31, 2020
This article examines the vision of citizenship set out in Part II of the Indian Constitution, through a close reading of the Constituent Assembly Debates. I argue that through its specific provisions in Part II, the Constitution articulates a vision of Indian citizenship that is interwoven with Indian constitutional identity as a whole: secular, egalitarian, and non-discriminatory. Drawing upon universal humanist principles – and in specific and conscious contrast to the State of Pakistan – the Constituent Assembly crafted an idea of citizenship that rejected markers of identity, whether ethnic or religious. A careful reading of the Constituent Assembly Debates reveals, therefore, that while Parliament was free to legislate on citizenship, it was to be bound – always – by the defining features of the Indian polity. Parliament could not – and was not intended to – ever create conditions for entry into the polity (through citizenship laws) that were fundamentally at odds with its secular and civic-nationalist identity. This was meant to act as an “implied limitation” (a concept familiar to students of constitutional law) upon Parliament’s powers under Article 11. Under this Constitution, therefore, religion cannot become a basis for citizenship.
Keywords: Indian Constitution, secularism, citizenship, implied limitations
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