Recently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 has been passed by the Lok Sabha. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 has become a heated topic for debate and discussions since the time that it was introduced. It seeks to amend some provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 to enable the people from the minority background to get citizenship in the country easily in order for them to live a life full of dignity. It also seeks to provide citizenship to the illegal immigrants for which they were not eligible earlier according to the provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955. The passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 has invited a lot of protests and rallies from the North-East states, particularly Assam, who are of the view that this amendment would, in turn, undermine the Assam Accord of 1985.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Lok Sabha after extensive debates and discussions for 12 hours. The passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 has given rise to a lot of protests and rallies from the North-East states, particularly Assam. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is applicable to all the states and Union Territories. Of India
The Citizenship Act 1955 contains the provisions for acquiring Indian citizenship and the grounds for acquiring the same. According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, a person can become a citizen of India if he stays in India for quite a long period of time or have his parents as citizens of India or residing in India. According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, there are five ways of acquiring citizenship. These are by birth, descent, Registration, Naturalisation and through incorporating a territory. However, according to the provisions of the above-mentioned act, illegal immigrants were not eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
An illegal immigrant is defined in the Citizenship Act, 1955 which state that an illegal immigrant is a person who has entered the territories of India without having the necessary passport or a person who is staying in India after the expiry of his visa permit. These illegal immigrants were debarred from acquiring citizenship of India according to the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
In 2016, a bill was introduced in order to amend some of the provisions of the citizenship act 1955 and to make illegal immigrants eligible for applying for Indian Citizenship. The Citizenship (amendment) act, 2016 sought to make the illegal immigrants coming from six religions i.e. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis, and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to be able to apply for Indian Citizenship. The bill also seeks to make some provisions to modify some laws of registration of the Overseas Citizens of India cardholders.
The above bill of 2016 was referred to a Joint parliamentary committee which gave out its report after due discussions and deliberations in January 2019 which was passed in the Lok Sabha the very next day. However, before this bill could be submitted before the Rajya Sabha, there was a dissolution of the Lok Sabha and hence the bill could not be passed through the Rajya Sabha.
Also, according to the rules of implementation of the bills and statutes, a bill needs to be presented and then passed by both the houses i.e. the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and if the bill is not presented in the Rajya Sabha, it needs to be presented to both the houses again.
Hence, the citizenship (amendment) Bill 2019 was again introduced in the Lok Sabha to be further presented before the Rajya Sabha if it gets passed.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 sought to make the illegal immigrants coming from six non-Muslims religions i.e. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis, and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh to be able to apply for Indian Citizenship. Besides this, it exempts certain parts of Northeast India from the above-mentioned provisions. It also highlights certain provisions regarding the overseas citizens of India (OCI) cardholders.
Highlights of the provisions introduced through the bill
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
The Highlights of the citizenship (amendment) bill, 2016 which was passed by the Lok Sabha but not presented before the Rajya Sabha is elucidated as follows
1. Citizenship for illegal migrants
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 which prohibited illegal immigrants from obtaining Indian citizenship. The provisions laid down in the citizenship (amendment) act, 2016 states that the illegal immigrants coming from six religions i.e. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis, and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship.
2. Time period for acquiring citizenship by naturalisation
The citizenship Act 1955 stated that a person can obtain the citizenship of India by naturalisation only upon fulfilling some major conditions. One of the conditions was that the person must have resided in India or been in the Central government for the last 12 months and at least 11 years from the previous 14 years if he does not possess proper documents. The citizenship (amendment) Bill, 2016 provided some exceptions for the above rule and laid down the requirement of being a resident should be reduced to six years for the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians
3. Overseas Citizens of India (OCI)
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955 the government could cancel the registration of the OCI on the following grounds as listed in the act –registration through fraud, showing dissatisfaction to the constitution, helping and engaging with the enemy territory during the war times, if canceling the registration is in the best interest of the sovereignty of the nation or if within five years of registering as an OCI, the person gets an imprisonment of two years or more. By the 2016 amendment bill, another point to cancel the registration was included which involved breaking of a law which was in force in the country. However, this step would be taken after due deliberations and after giving the OCI cardholders the right to be heard. In other words, the bill gave the OCI cardholders the right to be heard in case he is alleged with doing an act which would result in cancellation of his registration as an OCI.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Through the citizenship (amendment) bill, 2019 two provisions have been added with the rest of the Bill as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The two extra provisions added by way of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is as follows
1. Citizenship to illegal migrants
According to the citizenship (amendment) bill, 2019, two consequences arises after the illegal immigrants are given Indian Citizenship. These are elucidated as follows
a) These illegal immigrants would become citizens of India from the very date of their entry in India and
b) All the legal proceedings pending against them with relation to their being illegal immigrant will be shut down.
2. An exception to the citizenship to the illegal immigrants
The citizenship (amendment) bill, 2019 lists out some exceptions whereby the illegal immigrants would not be provided citizenship. It states that this citizenship will not be applicable to the tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The tribal areas which would be listed out under this provision is enlisted as follows
a) Karbi Anglong in Assam
b) Garo hills in Meghalaya
c) Chakma District in Mizoram
d) Tripura Tribal Areas District
This citizenship would also not be granted to the areas in the inner line under The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
Advantages of the Citizenship amendment bill
The advantages of the introduction of the citizenship amendment bill can be elucidated as under
1. Providing relief to the migrants
The citizenship amendment bill will seek to provide relief to the migrants who have traveled from the Western borders of the country who were earlier ill-treated to live a life of dignity and pride. This is because through the introduction of this act, the illegal immigrants will be eligible to acquire Indian citizenship and they would be freed of all the legal proceedings relating to the above matter from the time when they acquire Indian Citizenship.
2. Provide citizenship to people from various religions
The citizenship amendment bill would provide Indian citizenship to people from different religions, including Hindu, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Christians. This would help build harmony and peace in society.
Controversies around the citizenship (amendment) bill
The concern of the general public, as well as various ministers and other professionals as regards to the citizenship amendment act, are discussed as under.
1. Violation of article 14 of the Constitution of India
The people who criticise the above bill say that it is in violation of Article 14 of the constitution of India and hence undermines the powers of the constitution of India. They say that by giving such rights to only one community or religion, the government is segregating the individuals on the basis of their religion and this constitutes a violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which upholds the principle of equality despite the religion, sex, caste or gender of an individual.
2. Targets the Muslim community
The most fundamental and widely given criticism of the citizenship amendment bill is that it specifically targets the Muslim community. This is because the bill seeks to provide citizenship to all the non-Muslims who live in the areas where the Muslims are in a clear majority.
The citizenship amendment bill has been subjected to long discussions and heated arguments ever since it had been introduced. There are strikes and rallies carried out by the various North-Eastern states of India, especially in Assam owing to this bill. While some people talk highly of the bill and say that this bill would ensure that the minor community is not ill-treated in the countries of Muslim majority and they too can live a life of dignity, the people who criticise the bill contend that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India and thus should not be taken into effect. The citizenship (amendment) bill, 2019 is a bold and assertive step taken by the government of India to protect the rights of the minor communities and ensure equality of all human beings in its greatest sense.
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