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Business News/ Politics / News/  CAA rules notified: Here is what the 2019 Bill on Citizenship Amendment Act proposed
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CAA rules notified: Here is what the 2019 Bill on Citizenship Amendment Act proposed

The Citizenship Amendment Act paves the way for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to acquire Indian citizenship without having a valid passport of these countries or an Indian visa.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said the only religion that the Modi government follows is the Constitution of India. (PTI)Premium
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said the only religion that the Modi government follows is the Constitution of India. (PTI)

The Home Ministry on March 11 notified the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act's (CAA) rules.

The law paves the way for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian and Parsi refugees, who came to India before December, 31 2014, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to acquire Indian citizenship without having a valid passport of these countries or an Indian visa.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 was passed in Parliament in December 2019. The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on December 9 while the Rajya Sabha passed it on December 11.

What is in the Bill?

The Bill proposed to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, and sought to make foreign illegal migrants of certain religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship, according to PRS Legislative Research.

Rules for citizenship in India?

Before the new rules were implemented, the citizenship in India was regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Bill specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five criteria – by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation (extended residence in India), and by incorporation of territory into India.

The new law, however, introduces religion as the sixth criteria to acquire citizenship in India, while excluding Muslims.

What does the law change?

The Bill proposes that the specified class of illegal migrants from the three countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan - will not be treated as illegal migrants, making them eligible for citizenship. These migrants will become Indian citizens from the date of their entry into India anytime before December, 31 2014. All legal proceedings regarding their status as illegal migrants or their citizenship will be closed, the PRS Legislative Research said.

Also Read: CAA rules to be notified today, say home ministry sources

The refugee has to fulfil some qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years. For the specified class of illegal migrants, the number of years of residency has been relaxed to five years.

Exceptions

The amendments on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to certain areas. These include the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The exceptions also include the states regulated by the “Inner Line" permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations 1873.

These Sixth Schedule tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District. Further, the Inner Line Permit regulates the visit of all persons, including Indian citizens, to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

On Overseas Citizens of India

The law also made amendments to provisions related to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders. A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin or the spouse of a person of Indian origin. This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country.

The law has amended the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

Not Against Minorities

While introducing the Bill in Rajya Sabha in December 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the Bill will give a new ray of hope to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India after facing persecution on the ground of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The law has generated criticism for being against minorities. The fear among Muslims is that this law, combined with a proposed national register of citizens (NRC), would marginalise them. As of now, the NRC has been implemented in Assam only. But BJP has promised to roll out NRC across India.

But Shah in his Rajya Sabha speech had said the Bill was not against any minority in India and the rights of each India Citizen would be equally protected. The home minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government was committed to protecting the rights of each citizen of the country.

"The only religion that the Modi government follows is the Constitution of India. We are not here only to run the government but to solve the genuine problems of the common man," he said.

Why Three Countries?

Responding to the question on why only three countries were considered and why Muslims were not included in the law, Shah said that at different points of time in the past, citizenship had been given to refugees coming from countries like Uganda and Sri Lanka. Then, refugees coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were not considered.

"The process of awarding citizenship to refugees has been undertaken by different governments in the past on a case-to-case basis from time to time, on reasonable qualifications to Article 14. This time the case of refugees fleeing religious persecution from these three countries has been considered through this Bill, which is not unconstitutional," Shah said, adding that than 560 Muslims from these three countries have been granted citizenship in the last five years until 2019.

 

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Published: 11 Mar 2024, 06:08 PM IST
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