This post is third in the series ‘Who is an Indian Citizen?’. Read the previous post here
Between February and October 1948, the Drafting Committee received numerous comments and suggestions from various quarters on the Draft Constitution that it had submitted to the President of Constituent Assembly on 21st February 1948. One such response came from a group of Constituent Assembly members that included: V.T. Krishanmachari, Prime Minister of Jaipur State, B.H. Zaidi Chief Minister of Rampur, Sardar Singh of Khetri and Sardar Jaidev Singh.
These members, representing some of the Princely States, in a document titled ‘Memorandum on the Draft Constitution’, proposed that the citizenship Part of the Draft Constitution includes a provision that preserved ‘the right of the Legislature of a constituent State to deal with the question of citizenship for the local purposes of the State’.
They believed that a core feature of the Draft Constitution’s federal system was dual citizenship and constituent state governments ‘are distinct from the other, and each has citizens of its own, who ower its allegiance, and whose rights, within its jurisdiction, it must protect’. An individual is both a ‘citizen of the federation and a citizen of a State’.
The group views were informed by the American Supreme Court. They quoted the Court which held that there was a clearly recognised and established ‘distinction between citizenship of the United States and citizenship of a State’.
Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, at one of the Drafting Committee’s review meetings, gave a short response to the group’s demand: if the Indian legislature had the power to pass legislation extending to the territories or all constituent States, then ‘there is nothing incongruous in there being unified citizenship’. Further, Ayyar added, the group’s proposal would ‘affect the chapters relating to fundamental rights which have been passed with the assent of everyone’.
B.R. Ambedkar, the Drafting Committee’s chairman, gave a fuller, more lengthy response to the group’s proposal in his famous speech introducing the Draft Constitution in the Assembly. He said that the Draft Constitution did indeed propose a federal system with a dual polity that was similar to the American model but ‘the differences that distinguish them are more fundamental and glaring than the similarities between the two’.
The American Constitution, Ambedkar argued, topped its dual polity with dual citizenship and ‘…Taken all together, they amount to a considerable difference in rights between citizens and non-citizens of the State…’; the American system legally allowed state governments to discriminate between state citizens and state non-citizens with respect to political and economic rights. The Draft Constitution India however, Ambedkar clarified, brought in 'a dual polity with a single citizenship. There is only one citizenship for the whole of India. It is Indian citizenship. There is no State citizenship. Every Indian has the same rights of citizenship, no matter in what State he resides'
This separate citizenship matter did not significantly come up again in the Assembly’s proceedings. It seems like members were convinced that Indians should only have single Indian citizenship.