Updated: Feb 7
Domicile of an individual is very significant for deciding his/her marriage, succession, taxation, etc related issues. However, domicile is a complicated subject as it is a mixed question of facts and laws. In fact, there is no set procedure to get a domicile certificate in India as on date. To make the matter worst, there is an acute confusion between a domicile certificate and a residence certificate. Most of the Indian States and their authorities consider a residence certificate as a domicile certificate.
In its popular sense, this synonymous treatment of domicile and residence may be justified. However, in its technical sense, domicile is a conflict of laws principle and it has no role to play while deciding the territorial laws of a nation. In essence, domicile involves existence of more than one sovereign jurisdiction and a corresponding resolution of legal issues by applying the most appropriate law in a given circumstances.
Domicile as a conflict of laws concept identifies a person, in cases having a foreign element, with a territory subject to a single system of law, which is regarded as his personal law. Generally speaking, a person is domiciled in the country in which he is considered to have his permanent home. His domicile is of the whole country, being governed by common rules of law, and not confined to a part of it.
The interesting part about a domicile is that no one can be without a domicile and no one can have two domiciles. This is logical as well as a person domiciled in a particular jurisdiction cannot be domiciled in another foreign territory. For instance, in India a domicile of origin is attributed to every person at birth by operation of law. This domicile is not decided by his place of birth or by the place of residence of his father or mother, but by the domicile of the appropriate parent at the time of his birth, according as he is legitimate or illegitimate.
A person domiciled in a country establishes his legal status for the whole of the country and is subject to one body of law. But in federal countries like the United States, Australia, or Canada, or in a composite State like the United Kingdom, different systems of law may prevail in different regions in respect of certain matters. In such cases, each of the territories governed by a separate system of law is treated, for the purpose of conflict of laws, as a ‘country’, though in public international law or constitutional law it is not a separate sovereign State.
This is not the legal position in India. Though a Union of States, and a federation in that sense, the whole country is governed by a single unified system of law, with a unified system of judicial administration, notwithstanding the constitutional distribution of legislative powers between the Centre and the States. There is no State-wise domicile within the territory of India. A man who is domiciled in India is domiciled in every State in India and identified with a territorial system of legal rules pervading throughout the country. He is ‘domiciled’ in the whole of this country, even though his permanent home may be located in a particular spot within it . Thus, the concept of “domicile” varies from country to country and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
It is equally important to understand the difference between the terms domicile and residence. The word “domicile” should not be confused with a simple “residence”. The residence is a physical fact and no volition/intention is needed to establish it. The animus manendi is not an essential requirement of residence, unlike in the case of a domicile of choice. Thus, any period of physical presence, however short, may constitute residence provided it is not transitory, fleeting or casual. The intention is not relevant to prove the physical fact of residence except to the extent of showing that it is not a mere fleeting or transitory existence To insist on an element of volition is to confuse the features of ‘residence’ with those of ‘domicile’. While residence and intention are the two essential elements constituting the ‘domicile of choice’ residence in its own right is a connecting factor in a national legal system for purposes of taxation, jurisdiction, service of summons, voting etc .
The determination of domicile of an individual has a great legal significance. It helps in identifying the personal law by which an individual is governed in respect of various matters such as the essential validity of a marriage, the effect of marriage on the proprietary rights of husband and wife, jurisdiction in divorce and nullity of marriage, illegitimacy, legitimacy and adoption and testamentary and intestate succession to movables. The domicile is the legal relationship between an individual and a territory with a distinctive legal system, which invokes that system as his personal law. India recognizes only one domicile, namely, domicile in India by virtue of Article 5 of the Constitution of India. Further, the concept of ‘domicile’ has no relevance to the applicability of municipal laws, whether made by the Union of India or by the States.
The law of domicile in India can be traced under the Indian Succession Act, 1925. The domicile under the provisions of the Act can be classified under the following categories:
(i) Domicile of origin,
(ii) Domicile of choice, and
(iii) Domicile by operation of law.
(i) Domicile of origin: Every person must have a personal law, and accordingly every one must have a domicile. He receives at birth a domicile of origin, which remains his domicile, wherever he goes, unless and until he acquires a new domicile. The new domicile, acquired subsequently, is generally called a domicile of choice. The domicile of origin is received by operation of law at birth and for acquisition of a domicile of choice one of the necessary conditions is the intention to remain there permanently. The domicile of origin is retained and cannot be divested until the acquisition of the domicile of choice. By merely leaving his country, even permanently, one will not, in the eye of law, lose his domicile until he acquires a new one. This proposition that the domicile of origin is retained until the acquisition of a domicile of choice is well established and does not admit of any exception .
(ii) Domicile of choice: The domicile of origin continues until he acquires a domicile of choice in another country. Upon abandonment of a domicile of choice, he may acquire a new domicile of choice, or his domicile of origin, which remained in abeyance, revives. The burden of proving a change of domicile is on him who asserts it. The domicile of origin is more tenacious. “Its character is more enduring, its hold stronger and less easily shaken off. The burden of proving that a domicile of origin is abandoned is needed much heavier than in the case of a domicile of choice. No domicile of choice can be acquired by entering a country illegally. The domicile of choice is a combination of residence and intention. Residence, which is a physical fact, means bodily presence as an inhabitant. Such residence must be combined with intention to reside permanently or for an unlimited time in a country. It is such intention coupled with residence that acquires him a new domicile. It is immaterial for this purpose that the residence is for a short duration, provided it is coupled with the requisite state of the mind, namely the intention to reside there permanently. If a man intends to return to the land of his birth upon a clearly foreseen and reasonably anticipated contingency, such as, the end of his studies, he lacks the intention required by law. His tastes, habits, conduct, actions, ambitions, health, hopes, and projects are keys to his intention. That place is properly the domicile of a person in which he has voluntarily fixed the habitation of himself and his family, not for a mere special and temporary purpose, but with a present intention of making it his permanent home, unless and until something (which is unexpected or the happening of which is uncertain) shall occur to induce him to adopt some other permanent home.
The only intention required for a proof of a change of domicile is an intention of permanent residence. What is required to be established is that the person who is alleged to have changed his domicile of origin has voluntarily fixed the habitation of himself and his family in, the, new country, not for a mere special or temporary purpose, but with a present intention of making it his permanent home. On the question of domicile at a particular time the course of his conduct and the facts and circumstances before and after that time are relevant.
(iii) Domicile by operation of law. (Married women’s domicile): The rules of Private International Law in India are not codified and are scattered in different enactments such as the Civil Procedure Code, the Contract Act, the Indian Succession Act, the Indian Divorce Act, and the Special Marriage Act etc. In addition, some rules have also been evolved by judicial decisions. In matters of status or legal capacity of natural persons, matrimonial disputes, custody of children, adoption, testamentary and intestate succession etc. the problem in this country is complicated by the fact that there exist different personal laws and no uniform rule can be laid down for all citizens. The distinction between matters which concern personal and family affairs and those which concern commercial relationships, civil wrongs etc. is well recognized in other countries and legal systems. The law in the former area tends to be primarily determined and influenced by social, moral and religious considerations, and public policy plays a special and important role in shaping it. Hence, in almost all the countries the jurisdictional, procedural and substantive rules that are applied to disputes arising in this area are significantly different from those applied to claims in other areas. That is as it ought to be. For, no country can afford to sacrifice its internal unity, stability and tranquility for the sake of uniformity of rules and comity of nations which considerations are important and appropriate to facilitate international trade, commerce, industry, communication, transport, exchange of services, technology, manpower etc. This glaring Tact of national life has been recognized both by the Hague Convention of 1968 on the Recognition of Divorce and Legal Separations as well as by the Judgments Convention of the European Community of the same year. Article 10 of the Hague Convention expressly provides that the contracting States may refuse to recognize a divorce or legal separation if such recognition is manifestly incompatible with their public policy. The Judgments Convention of the European Community expressly excludes from its scope (a) status or legal capacity of natural persons, (b) rights in property arising out of a matrimonial relationship, (c) wills and succession, (d) social security, and (e) bankruptcy. A separate convention was contemplated for the last of the subjects.
The judicial interpretation of the concept of domicile in India is very clear. In Dr.Pradeep Jain v U.O.I the Supreme Court observed: “The entire country is taken as one nation with one citizenship and every effort of the Constitution makers is directed towards emphasizing, maintaining and preserving the unity and integrity of the nation. Now if India is one nation and there is only one citizenship, namely, citizenship of India, and every citizen has a right to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of India, irrespective of the place where he is born or the language which he speaks or the religion which he professes and he is guaranteed freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse throughout the territory of India and is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the law with other citizens in every part of the territory of India, it is difficult to see how a citizen having his permanent home in Tamil Nadu or speaking Tamil language can be regarded as an outsider in Uttar Pradesh or a citizen having his permanent home in Maharashtra or speaking Marathi language be regarded as an outsider in Karnataka. He must be held entitled to the same rights as a citizen having his permanent home in Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka, as the case may be. To regard him as an outsider would be to deny him his constitutional rights and to not recognize the essential unity and integrity of the country by treating it as if it were a mere conglomeration of independent States”.
In Dr.Yogesh Bhardwaj v State of U.P the Supreme Court observed: “Domicile’, being a private international law concept, is opposite to the relevant provisions, having no foreign element, i.e., having no contact with any system of law other than Indian, unless that expression is understood in a less technical sense. An expression, which has acquired a special and technical connotation, and developed as a rule of choice or connecting factor among the competing diverse legal systems as to the choice of law or forum, is, when employed out of context, in situations having no contact with any foreign system of law, apt to cloud the intended import of the statutory instrument.
In Mr. Louis De Raedt v U.O.I the Supreme Court observed: “For the acquisition of a domicile of choice, it must be shown that the person concerned had a certain State of mind, the animus manendi. If he claims that he acquired a new domicile at a particular time, he must prove that he had formed the intention of making his permanent home in the country of residence and of continuing to reside there permanently. Residence alone, unaccompanied by this state of mind, is insufficient. The burden to prove that the petitioners had an intention to stay permanently in India lies on them. The fundamental right of the foreigner is confined to Article 21 for life and liberty and does not include the right to reside and settle in this country, as mentioned in Article 19(1)(e), which is applicable only to the citizens of this country. The power of the Government in India to expel foreigners is absolute and unlimited and there is no provision in the Constitution fettering this discretion. The legal position on this aspect is not uniform in all the countries but so far the law that operates in India is concerned, the Executive Government has unrestricted right to expel a foreigner”.
In Y. Narasimha Rao V Y. Venkata Lakshmi the Supreme Court observed: “As pointed out above, the present decree dissolving the marriage passed by the foreign court is without jurisdiction according to the Act as neither the marriage was celebrated nor the parties last resided together nor the respondent resided within the jurisdiction of that court. The decree is also passed on a ground that is not available under the Act, which is applicable to the marriage. What is further, the decree has been obtained by appellant 1 by stating that he was the resident of the Missouri State when the record shows that he was only a bird of passage there and was ordinarily a resident of the State of Louisiana. He had, if at all, only technically satisfied the requirement of residence of 90 days with the only purpose of obtaining the divorce. He was neither domiciled in that State nor had he an intention to make it his home. He had also no substantial connection with the forum”.
The law of domicile in India is crystal clear and is free from any ambiguities. However, there seems to be an ignorance of the concept in its true perspective in India among various States and their authorities. We believe that there is an urgent need to spread “public awareness” in this regard. Further, it would be a good strategy to formulate the domicile Policy of India by Central Government as soon as possible. We hope the Central Government would come up with the Indian Domicile Policy very soon.