Are you an Indian citizen?

Are you an Indian citizen?

Are you an Indian citizen?

"There is an impending uncertainty over the documents necessary to prove citizenship."

Reports on 2 recent judgments of Guwahati high court on citizenship created widespread shock and surprise.

On 12 February 22, 2020, the district bench of the high court upheld a foreigner tribunal's declaration of one munidra Biswas as a foreigner by alleging that the electoral photo identity card is not a proof of citizenship.

On the same day, the same bench declared 50 years old jabeda begum to be a foreigner by observing that PAN card, bank documents, land tax receipts are not sufficient to prove citizenship. Meanwhile, a trial court in Mumbai acquitted 2 persons under foreigner's act 1946 by holding an electoral ID card to be sufficient proof of citizenship.

In this context, it is important to note that the judgment of Gauhati high court was rendered in the particular context of Assam accord, as per which inclusion in the NRC is conditioned on proving one's residence or ancestry beyond back the cutoff date of 24th march 1971 on basis of certain specified documents.

The relevancy of birth dates

Citizenship can be proved by submitting any documents related to the date of birth and place of birth – is of high importance. The basis of this statement can be traced to section 3 of the citizenship act 1955 which deals with citizenship by birth. When the citizenship act was enacted section 3 stated that all those who are born in India on or after 1 January 1950 will be an Indian citizen. An added condition that one of the parents must be Indian citizens was introduced for granting citizenship to those who are born in India after 1st July 1987.

The condition was later tightened in 2003 which stated that who was born after December 2004 will be eligible for Indian citizenship if one of the parents is an Indian citizen and another one is not an illegal migrant. This is how a person's place of birth, date of birth became relevant for Indian citizenship.

Aadhar card, PAN card, driving license not substantive proof of citizenship

In case of a driving license, an applicant is required to furnish proof of residence in the concerned state. In the case of aadhaar card, a person's residency in India for 182 days before the date of application is a relevant fact for issuing aadhaar number. In the case of PAN card, even a foreign citizen or entities who are bound to pay income tax can obtain a PAN card. So these documents per se do not prove citizenship bot could corroborate facts relevant for citizenship.

Assam NRC documents

Under the Assam accord, all those who had entered India after the cutoff date of March 24, 1971, are regarded as an illegal immigrant. To become eligible for inclusion in Assam NRC, it has shown that one's ancestors had been residing in Assam before the cutoff date. 

Following are the documents which are issued before the cutoff date for one's proving eligibility for inclusion in Assam NRC are:

1.    1951 NRC

2.    Electrol roll up to 24 march 1971(midnight)

3.    Land and tenancy records 

4.    Citizenship certificate

5.    Permanent residence certificate

6.    Refugee registration certificate

7.    Passport

8.    LIC

9.    Birth certificate

10.    Education certificate

11.    Court records 

12.    Government service/employment certificate 

Is there a presumption of nationality?

Section 8 of foreigners act provides that where for any reason it is uncertain what nationality, if any is to be ascribed to a foreigner, that foreigner may be treated as nationals of the country with which he appears to be most connected or if he is of the country with which he was last so connected. So a person who has developed a social and cultural connection with India after having resided here for several years, ought to be presumed as an Indian national even if he/she fails to test of citizenship based on documents


The cases from Assam show that even if one may have been living in for decades, by exercising rights that are regarded as ordinarily available for citizens, one can still be branded as non-citizens. The fact that the government itself has not been able to come with clear answers regarding acceptable documents for citizenship has aggravated the concern of people. Where a large section of the population is marginalized and backward, the insistence on the document to prove citizenship could lead to exclusive of genuine nationals. According to a study, about 38% of children less than 5 years do not have a birth certificate. It is highly unrealistic and utopian to expect that the documents of all Indians are in order. The upshot of the above discussion is that there is a looming uncertainty over the documents necessary to prove citizenship. The question of how to prove Indian citizenship continues to evade easy answers.


eStartIndia Team

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