The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 paving the way for its introduction in Parliament on December 9.

Provisions of the bill

  1. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.

In other words, the Bill says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.

The Bill also proposes to protect the applicants under this category from all pending legal cases.

  1. The Bill shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP).

The exemption means that Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Jain and Sikh communities from the three neighbouring countries will not be able to take up jobs, purchase land or settle down in these areas.

Implications of bill

  1. The purpose of the Bill says that it will enable acquisition of Indian citizenship by persons who were forced to seek shelter in India due to persecution or fear of it on grounds of religion and will extend the facility to the class of persons presently facing hardships and difficulties in acquiring citizenship. The earlier form of the Bill cleared by the Lok Sabha in January did not have these provisions.

  2. The immediate beneficiaries of this amendment would be the non-Muslim people out of the over 19 lakh people who were excluded from Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31.

  3. It also seeks to provide immunity from any proceedings going on against a non-Muslim illegal migrant before any authority including Foreigners Tribunals, courts etc. and such proceedings shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship. Assam is the only State which has Foreigners Tribunals in place.

  4. The Bill will enable a person belonging to the six communities who does not have proof of birth of his parents in support of his being Indian origin, to apply for citizenship by naturalisation on completion of six years residency period in India.

  5. The Bill seeks to insert a clause that will enable the Central government to decide “the condition, restrictions and manner for granting citizenship.”

Reaction to the bill

Northeast States erupted in protests against the Bill as it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was updated as per the accord.

Source: The Hindu

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance