Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

It makes a distinction on the basis of religion.

The main purpose of the act is to make certain religious communities of illegal migrants or refugees eligible for Indian citizenship – in a fast-track manner.

What Citizenship Amendment Act does?

The Citizenship Act, 1955 prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. Act is to provide that the following minority groups will not be treated as illegal migrants: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, to get this benefit, they must have also been exempted from the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 by the central government.

Exception: It will not apply to areas under Inner Line Permit. And areas under Schedule 6.

What government says?

Connected the 2-nation theory which led to the division of India with the new bill. As per govt, as the two nations – India and Pakistan – are created on the basis of religion, CAB turned a necessity now.

Cited the Nehru-Liaquat pact. As per govt, Nehru-Liaquat pact failed to achieve its objectives in protecting minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have declared Islam as their State Religion.

According to government it does not violate Basic structure doctrine.

Citizenship Amendment Bill graphical diagram

Features of CAA

  • The Act seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India. In other words, the Act intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbors to become citizens of India.
    • The legislation applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”. It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration.
  • The amendment relaxes the requirement of naturalization from 11 years to 5 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions.
  • The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014, which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.
  • The Act says that on acquiring citizenship:
    • Such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and
    • All legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
  • It also says people holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards – an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely – can lose their status if they violate local laws for major and minor offenses and violations.
  • Exception

    • The Act adds that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
      • These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.
    • It will also not apply to the areas under the Inner Line Permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

Why people are against it ?

  • The fundamental criticism of the act has been that it specifically targets Muslims. Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (which guarantees the right to equality) and the principle of secularism.
  • India has several other refugees that include Tamils from Sri Lanka and Hindu Rohingya from Myanmar. They are not covered under the Act.
  • Despite exemption granted to some regions in the Northeastern states, the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties in the states.
  • It will be difficult for the government to differentiate between illegal migrants and those persecuted.

Government clarification

Citizenship Amendment Act government stance
Citizenship Amendment Act government stance
Citizenship Amendment Act government stance
Citizenship Amendment Act government stance
Citizenship Amendment Act government stance

Why Nehru-Liaquat Pact associated with this?

In the aftermath of Partition and the communal riots that followed, Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan signed a treaty, also known as the Delhi Agreement, on security and rights of minorities in their respective countries. According to the pact Governments of India and Pakistan solemnly agree that each shall ensure, to the minorities throughout its territory, complete equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion, a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honour, freedom of movement within each country and freedom of occupation, speech and worship, subject to law and morality.

Members of the minorities shall have equal opportunity with members of the majority community to participate in the public life of their country, to hold political or other office, and to serve in their country’s civil and armed forces. Both Governments declare these rights to be fundamental and undertake to enforce them effectively.

The present government claims India has kept its end of the bargain while Pakistan has failed, and it is this wrong that the new law seeks to correct.

Conclusion

Religious persecution has always been there and all religions are guilty of it. The government is, therefore, right in recognising religious persecution. But the solution it presents may damage India’s standing in the comity of nations.

Undoubtedly, the CAA is a very serious move with far-reaching consequences and deeper impact on the basic character of the Constitution and therefore it needs a closer look. India has to undertake a balancing act here. India’s citizenship provisions are derived from the perception of the country as a secular republic. In fact, it is a refutation of the two-nation theory that proposed a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. Independent India adopted a Constitution that rejected discrimination on the basis of religion and the birth of Bangladesh undermined the idea that religion could be the basis of a national community. We need to balance the civilization duties to protect those who are prosecuted in the neighbourhood. Shared identity is at the core of citizenship. The framers of our Constitution and those who enacted the Citizenship Act in 1955 believed in citizenship as a unifying idea and it must be continued to seen in such framework only.