New Delhi: A joint parliamentary committee, comprising members of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, will examine the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the Press Information Bureau of the government announced on Friday.
The committee will be chaired by Satyapal Singh, a representative of the Baghpat Lok Sabha constituency. The bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha by union home minister Rajnath Singh in July, had come under attack from opposition parties for being “biased" towards certain religions.
The original Citizenship Act, passed in 1955, defines the concept of Indian citizenship, and lists out ways to acquire the same, explicitly denying citizenship to all undocumented migrants.
An illegal migrant, the Act states, “is a foreigner who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time".
A key amendment in the new bill, however, seeks to grant citizenship to people without valid documents from minority communities—Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians—from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India.
Effectively, people from all communities except Islam will be Indian citizen after six years of staying in India even if they have no passport or other paperwork.
“In the Citizenship Act, 1955 … the following proviso shall be inserted, namely: ‘Provided that persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have 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 order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act," the amendment reads.
The bill, which has been uploaded on the Lok Sabha website, is now open to views and suggestions from individuals and associations/bodies concerned.
The memoranda submitted to the committee would form part of the records of the committee and would be treated as “confidential" and would enjoy privilege of the committee.