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THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019

CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2019 – AN OVERVIEW

The Citizenship (Amendment) bill has passed the Lok Sabha on December 09, 2019 and it was introduced in the same day. The bill was passed 311-80 with zero absentions amidst the outcry from the opposition. The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates who may acquire Indian citizenship and on what grounds.

  1. Features of the bill

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955. The following are the features of the amendment bill,

  1. The bill aims to grant Indian citizenship to all persecuted religious minorities like Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from three neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  2. The bill is applicable to all states and union territories of the country and the beneficiaries can reside in any part of the country.

  3. The bill amends the requirement for getting an Indian citizenship from 11years to 6years. The bill also shields such people from proceedings of Illegal migrant.

  4. There are two exceptions to the bill. The bill will not apply to areas under the sixth schedule of the Constitution – which deals with autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The bill will also not apply to states that have the inner-line permit regime (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram). These exceptions didn’t exist in the earlier version.

  5. It allows the government to cancel registrations of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders who violates the provisions of the Citizenship Act, or “any other notified law”.

  1. Concerns raised against the bill

  1. The bill has not included the Muslims. The citizenship is provided based on religion which is fundamentally unconstitutional. Further, it is not clear why migrants from these countries are differentiated from migrants from other neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka (Buddhist state religion) and Myanmar (primacy to Buddhism). Sri Lanka has had a history of persecution of a linguistic minority in the country, the Tamil Eelams. Similarly, India shares a border with Myanmar, which has had a history of persecution of a religious minority, the Rohingya Muslims

  2. In Assam, the protest is to protect the rights and livelihood of the ethnic communities of the state. Many groups feel that the bill will nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion. It was contended that the NRC process was aimed against all illegal immigrants and the CAB will selectively benefit non-Muslim migrants into Assam.

  3. The Nagaland Tribes Council and Naga Students Federations sees the bill as a threat to political future of their identity.

  4. There are protests in Manipur in the fear of the state becoming a dumping ground to foreigners

  5. In Tripura the Kokborok community has reduced to 33% of the population of the state. Initially the state was dominated by the community with 80% of the population. Tripura believes that this condition will be worsen if the bill is passed.

The Union minister assured that the persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country and not only Assam. He also gave assurance that there will be full support to the state governments after the implementation of the bill. It may be argued that giving the central government the power to prescribe the list of laws whose violation result in cancellation of OCI registration, may amount to an excessive delegation of powers by the legislature.  The Supreme Court has held that while delegating powers to an executive authority, the legislature must prescribe a policy, standard, or rule for their guidance, which will set limits on the authority’s powers and not give them arbitrary discretion to decide how to frame the rules. However, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha amidst the opposition’s outcry.

Download/view the bill – citizenship bill 2019

Ukkash F

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