CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ACT, 2019, COMES INTO FORCE

Notification dated 10th January, 2020 published in the Official Gazette by the Central Government notifies provisions of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to be enforced from the date of Notification.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 10th December, 2019 just a day after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha. Also, Rajya Sabha passed it a day later. The Bill received the assent of the President on 12th December, 2019 thereby becoming an Act of Parliament.

This particular amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 relaxes the grant of citizenship for Non- Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had entered India before December 21, 2014.

This relaxation to Non- Muslims has been granted because they have sought refuge in India from the countries which have declared themselves to be Islamic countries. Considering this it cannot be termed to be unconstitutional. Protests have broken out across India, a few of them extremely violent against the Act. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the CAA does not apply to Indian Citizens. They are completely unaffected by it. The Citizenship Amendment Act seeks to grant Indian Citizenship to foreigners who had suffered persecution on the grounds of religion in the three neighbouring countries.

As Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have declared themselves to be Islamic countries, Non-Muslims residing there are subjected to multiple persecutions. According to a Report of Human Rights Group Amnesty International it has been pointed out that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the Police and Judiciary in such a way to harass and persecute religious minorities. According to United Nations data the number of refugees in India went up to 17% between 2016-2019.

Same is the case with Bangladesh and Afghanistan. People who had recently migrated from these Islam dominated countries have complained as to how there were persecuted there and what atrocities were committed on them.

The point of consideration which people need to understand is that the CAA does not target any religious community coming from the above mentioned three countries. It only provides a mechanism for some migrants who may otherwise be called ‘illegal’ providing them an opportunity to apply for Indian citizenship provided they meet certain conditions. Also, the CAA protects the interests of the tribal and people of North Eastern Region of India by excluding areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Migrants living in these areas will not be able to apply for Indian citizenship.

As per the proviso inserted in section 2(1)(b), it makes migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain and Christians religions from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship by naturalization if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of existing eleven years.

The Government is yet to frame rules, in this regard detailing the procedure to be followed by the Authorities for grant of citizenship to such migrants who have sought refuge in India.

Aakritee Gambhir

Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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