Civic Theory & Changing Dimensions of Citizenship

Citizenship, a concept which has evolved from the ancient period is an idea of the sense of belongingness to the political community. Unlike nationals, citizens have legal status in the modern term while the former is the mere concept of Allegiance to the state.

The journey, Citizens declared out as the legal status has not always been from inception rather, in Greek this concept originated from the idea of Political Participation. To them, the Idea of Democracy was the form of government but in relation to sovereignty, they were oligarchical in nature. Due to the small number of Population, political participation in the affairs of the polis was convenient for them & thus they came up with Civic, political affairs of Polis. This led to the founding step of modern world citizens. Therefore, the Idea of Civic Theory was that citizen is one who politically participates in state affairs, they have the right to be elected & to elect. The Public Office conception was closely related to the Idea of Citizenship in Athens. But counter to their idea, for Republican the legal status i.e. law conferred citizenship to the people than, political participation in the state affairs.

These two divergent ideas in relation to the Citizenship saw a shifting paradigm in 19th & 20th Century. As the citizenship notion vis a vis Individual, & community were new are of discussion & debates. Also, the idea of equality or hierarchical citizenship was also an issue while the force of nation-state making was in the picture.

Read – The Political Role of Media in Elections

Consequently, the idea of Citizenship in modern times merged two ancient views, Republican & Civic theory. Now the status of Citizenship is a legal one which can be acquired in the ways as the law of the land states i.e. constitution and the political rights which include the political participation have turned out to be the basic rights along with other rights that are guaranteed to a citizen by virtue of being so.

Thus, the Civic Theory has seen changing dimensions in the modern period.

• Change in the Idea of Democracy: In the ancient period, Democracy was more involved in the government aspect rather than in the sovereignty aspect. But with the increase in population and the difficulty to have people’s participation in day to day state affairs with the increasing capitalist market regime, the idea of Representative Democracy sounds apter. With this representative form of the government, the idea of participation by the citizen vis a vis voting had become an integral part of the modern Democracy. And thus, citizens are aptly called as Sleeping Sovereign.

• Foreigner’s Rights: In the Civic Theory, the foreigners were not considered the citizens. But in Modern time period citizenship is legal status, a formal nature this, along with gives the other entitlement i.e. the Rights- Political Participation. Therefore, the foreigners if becomes national, i.e. can acquire citizenship by, grounds which will be mentioned in the law of the land. But as such foreigners are not citizens per se unless they meet up with the conditions. Therefore the citizenship to the foreigners is subject to conditionality. In the Citizenship Act, 1955 the India has clearly defined the Citizenship right in relation to foreigner starting from the Section 3 (where the one of the parent not be illegal migrants & enemy alien children not to get the citizenship by birth) Section 5 (where the person who married the Indian citizen, get the Indian citizenship itself if ordinary reside for 7 years in India) Section 6A- Special case of Assam added in 1985 (where the division as to immigration influx has been made i.e. one who came before January 1st, 1966 and the one who came after the said date & before March 25th, 1971. The ones in the former category are deemed to be citizen while the latter to follow set rules, in order to be Indian citizens)

• Women Right to Vote: It is only about 100 years ago that women were given the rights to vote by the ardent effort of the Suffragists. And it was 2018 that was named as Year of Woman. New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote while Finland turned out to be the first in Europe to do so along with giving them the opportunity to stand in the Parliament also. While in India the Women Right to Vote after independence was on basis of Equality granted to every citizen so declared by the Part II of constitution & later from Citizenship Act, 1955.

Leslie Hume argues that the First World War changed the popular mood:
The women’s contribution to the war effort challenged the notion of women’s physical and mental inferiority and made it more difficult to maintain that women were, both by constitution and temperament, unfit to vote. If women could work in munitions factories, it seemed both ungrateful and illogical to deny them a place in the polling booth. But the vote was much more than simply a reward for war work; the point was that women’s participation in the war helped to dispel the fears that surrounded women’s entry into the public arena.

• Not to Vote- Voting is the formal action of will or opinion by the person entitled to exercise his right on the subject & issue in question. Right to vote means right to exercise the vote in favour or against the motion. Such a right implies the right to maintain neutral as well.

This right to not to vote also called as negative voting and is a matter of expression of Citizens. This is not a new concept to World rather there are many states which have these provision or compulsory voting provision.

The right not to Vote (NOTA) in India was evolved from the Judgment of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India where the determination of the Constitutional Validity of the rules 41(2) & (3) and the 49-O of Conduct of Rules, 1961. But the Constitutional bench stated the Right not to vote implied in the Freedom of Expression guaranteed in India Art. 19(1)(a).

As early as 1999 the Law Commission report stated in its 170th Law Report titled, Alternative Method of Election, wherein it was stated that the candidate getting the majority over 50% will be deemed to be elected & Negative voting option should be given out to voters, for more political participation. They moved ahead & stated that recognition to negative voting will only be there if, some value is attached to the same. This attaches a moral value too on the party to put forward the desirable & efficient candidates. But the circular attached by the ECI after the 2013 case makes NOTA as toothless, as it is not the candidate & if it gets maximum votes the same is not upheld and can cause re-election.

Therefore it can clearly be stated that the Citizenship as a concept has undergone a significant change from the ancient system, thereby forming a genesis where the Legislature (in case of India- Parliament under union list entry: 17 Citizenship, naturalization & aliens ) is competent to declare the nuance of We the people.

About Author –

Name – Vibhum, Law Student, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

Law Corner

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