WHAT IS CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT

The Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019 passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act with as many as 125 MPs voting in favour of it and 99 against it. On December 9, 2019, the CAB Bill was tabled and passed in the Lok Sabha's Winter Session. President Ram Nath Kovind signed it on December 12.
 
What is Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
 
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to fast-track citizenship for persecuted minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The six minority groups that have been specifically identified are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis. The Bill aims to change the definition of illegal migrants. However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmedis who also face persecution in Pakistan.
 
The beneficiaries of Citizenship Amendment Bill can reside in any state of the country and the burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country.
 
Presently, the Constitution of India provides for citizenship by naturalisation – for people who have lived in India for the past 12 months and for 11 of the past 14 years. It also provides for people whose parents or grandparents were born in India to become Indian citizens.
 
Who are illegal immigrants from India perspective?
 
As per the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India with fake or forged documents and/or does not have a valid passport. A person who stays beyond the visa permit is also referred to as an illegal immigrant.
 
When did the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill come up?
 
Prior to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was seeking to topple the Congress-led UPA government, promised to grant citizenship to Hindus persecuted in the neighbouring countries. In the party's election manifesto, the BJP promised to give shelter to the Hindus and welcome the refugees.
 
Which parties are against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and why?
 
BJP's coalition partner Assam Gana Parishad has threatened to cut ties with the party if the Bill is passed. NGOs like Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and students' organisation All Assam Students’ Union also have come forward in opposing the Bill. All Opposition parties, including the Congress and All India United Democratic Front, have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to an individual on the basis of religion. It is also argued that the Bill if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC).
 
Parties and activists opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 are of the view that it works against the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people. Mizoram and other northeastern states, which have a diverse indigenous community, have urged the government not to table the new citizenship bill, saying it will open a "floodgate” of illegal immigrants in the state.
 
In January 2019, days after Union home minister Amit Shah announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be brought in parliament again, protests were held in Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya. The Nagaland and North East Forum of Indigenous People (NEFIP) claimed that it would seek the United Nations’ intervention if the Centre implements the Bill.
 
Northeast protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019
 
The Bill has divided India into protests and jubilations. While Hindu refugee communities across India are celebrating the government's move, a majority of Northeast remains on edge. Guwahati was the epicentre of anti-CAB protests. People in the north-eastern states fear that the Bill would change the demography of the states if it is passed as people of different cultures and languages will get citizenship of the country. Currently, the northeast is witnessing protests against Bangladeshi immigrants.
 
Exemptions under Citizenship Bill 2019
 
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision. It would not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. This effectively means that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram along with almost whole of Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura would stay out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
 
Amendments for OCI cardholders
 
According to the Citizenship Bill, a foreigner may register as an Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) if they are of Indian origin or their spouse is of Indian origin. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill entitles the OCI cardholders to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.
 
What is the current status of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019?
 
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was referred to a joint select committee in 2016, after being discussed extensively in the Lok Sabha. Members of the parliamentary committee visited several parts of the northeastern states and discussed the Bill with various organisation. On January 8, 2019 the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. However, before it could be tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Bill lapsed on June 3, 2019, as the tenure of the Lok Sabha ended. 
 
The Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019 passed the Bill. However, the Opposition, which terms it 'unconstitutional', is likely to knock the Supreme Court of India's door to protest against the Bill. Meanwhile, protests in the north east, particularly in Assam continue. 

Full text of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
 
[Gazette notification dated December 12, 2019]
 
An Act further to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
 
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Seventieth Year of the Republic of India as follows:
 
1. (1) This Act may be called the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
 
(2) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
 
2. In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2, in sub-section (1), in clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:

"Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;".
 
3. After section 6A of the principal Act, the following section shall be inserted, namely:
 
'6B. (1) The Central Government or an authority specified by it in this behalf may, subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner as may be prescribed, on an application made in this behalf, grant a certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation to a person referred to in the proviso to clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 2.
 
(2) Subject to fulfilment of the conditions specified in section 5 or the qualifications for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, a person granted the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a citizen of India from the date of his entry into India.
 
(3) On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him:
 
Provided that such person shall not be disqualified for making application for citizenship under this section on the ground that the proceeding is pending against him and the Central Government or authority specified by it in this behalf shall not reject his application on that ground if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of citizenship under this section:
 
Provided further that the person who makes the application for citizenship under this section shall not be deprived of his rights and privileges to which he was entitled on the date of receipt of his application on the ground of making such application.
 
(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under "The Inner Line" notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.'.
 
4. In section 7D of the principal Act,—
 
(i) after clause (d), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:
 
"(da) the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has violated any of the provisions of this Act or provisions of any other law for time being in force as may be specified by the Central Government in the notification published in the Official Gazette; or";
 
(ii) after clause (f), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:
 
"Provided that no order under this section shall be passed unless the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder has been given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.".
 
5. In section 18 of the principal Act, in sub-section (2), after clause (ee), the following clause shall be inserted, namely:
 
"(eei) the conditions, restrictions and manner for granting certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) of section 6B;".
 
6. In the Third Schedule to the principal Act, in clause (d), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:
 
'Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as "not less than five years" in place of "not less than eleven years".'.
 

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