While the Bill is likely to be passed by the Lower House where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a sweeping majority, it may hit a roadblaock when it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition which outnumbers the BJP has been staunchly against the Bill.
The Union Cabinet had, last week, given its go-ahead to the Bill, prior to which Shah had met with various stakeholders and groups from the northeast, wherein the concerns pertaining to the indigenous northeastern population had been raised.
The Bill aims to provide citizenship to those who had been forced to seek shelter in India because of religious persecution or fear of persecution in their home countries, primarily Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is a drastic shift from the provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1955 that labels a person an “illegal immigrant" if he or she has entered India without travel documents or has overstayed the date specified in the documents.
The bill thus amends the 1955 Act to grant exemptions to illegal migrants from these communities, who reached India on or before December 2014.
According to the proposed draft, the amendment will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and in the areas covered under The Inner Line, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The Bill also proposes to incorporate a sub-section (d) to Section 7, providing for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.
During the last winter session, the Lok Sabha had passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. While the Bill awaited passage in the Upper House, it had lapsed after the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Opposition had then raised objections against the proposed amendments, which exclude Muslims and minorities from Nepal and Sri Lanka.