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Should a person of foreign origin rule India?
By Prof S.N. Singh
THE foreign origin or original citizenship in a democratic country is determined by law and is associated with political rights. It gives citizens entitlements as a consequence of their position within a polity. It is construed as conferred status or as an empirically determined position on a certain qualification for it.
In ancient Greece, the term ?citizen? was used for an original native: those who enjoyed the civil and political rights and had power to take part in the deliberative or judicial administration of any state. In ancient and medieval Rome, only rich classes were regarded as citizens.
The dawn of democracy introduced adult franchise and every adult enjoys the right to vote and participate in the political process. Now the citizenship is acquired by natural-born and naturalised citizens. Natural-born citizens are the citizens of a State by virtue of their birth or blood relations. Naturalised citizens are those foreigners who acquire the citizenship of the country on the fulfilment of the rules of the land.
Only in some countries, such as USA and Britain, they are not allowed to acquire highest political posts.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners have been raising the issue of the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi'sforeign origin. It has been a subject of long debate, whether India should be ruled by a person of foreign origin, since the last few years. In the last election people of India had started thinking whether they would be ruled by an Indian or someone who has acquired Indian citizenship.
Since the NDA government was not in a position to amend the Constitution on this issue due to lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha, therefore this issue was left for public debate and electorate.
Constituent Assembly view
The citizenship provision was part of the fundamental rights drafted by the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and placed before the Constituent Assembly on April 29, 1947. B.N. Rau removed the citizenship provision from the list of fundamental rights and placed it in a separate part. It was to confer citizenship on every person born in India, whether his parents were Indian citizens or not. It was not specific in composition. Therefore, it was referred to a small committee of distinguished jurists for advice.
On April 30, 1947 an ad hoc committee comprising S. Varadacharia, Bakshi Tek Chand, B.L. Mitter, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, K.N. Katju, K.M. Munshi and B.R. Ambedkar was formed. The committee on May 1, 1947 redrafted the clause relating to citizenship as follows:
?Every person born in the Union and subject to its jurisdiction, every person either of whose parents was, at the time of such person'sbirth, a citizen of the Union and every person naturalised in the Union shall be a citizen of the Union.?
The inclusion of ?children born? is based on a feature of the Anglo-American Public Law, which had become the basis for Indian Naturalisation Act, 1926.
One of the members of the Constituent Assembly, D.P. Khaitan submitted his views regarding the citizenship of a woman married to a citizen of India. He had visualised the present issue raised by the BJP leaders and some others fifty-five years earlier. In his letter he wrote that a woman on being married to a citizen of India would automatically become such a citizen. Such is the law in other countries also. He insisted: ?As the law is being drafted at present, it, in my opinion, is necessary that this point be cleared up in order that Hindustan may not be full of, what would legally be, foreign women.?
In the Constituent Assembly, Khaitan was not taken seriously. It was thought that in India there would be no distinction between an Indian wife and a foreign wife or an Indian citizen and foreign-origin citizen. It was also not visualised that in Indian politics the son of a Prime Minister would be married to a foreign woman and he would become PM and that after his death, his widow would desire to be PM of India.