Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 Rules

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    • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) did not notify the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 rules yet as the third extended deadline passed.

    About

    • Committee on subordinate legislation: It is not clear if the Ministry had sought more time from the committee on subordinate legislation in the two Houses of Parliament to notify rules that will govern the CAA. 
      • Without rules, the Act cannot be implemented.
    • As per the Manual on Parliamentary Work: in case the ministries/departments are not able to frame the rules within the prescribed period of six months after legislation is passed, “they should seek extension of time from the Committee on Subordinate Legislation stating reasons for such extension” which cannot be more than for a period of three months at a time.

    What is The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

    • The Bill seeks to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955: to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
      • In other words, the Bill intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.
    • Relaxations: Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
      • The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
    • Definition: Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who
      • Enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or
      • Enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
    • Exemptions: Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
      • It exempts the members of the six communities from any criminal case under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920.
      • The two Acts specify punishment for entering the country illegally and staying here on expired visas and permits.
    • Sixth Schedule: The Citizenship (Amendment) Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
      • Also areas that fall under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview. This keeps almost the entire Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland out of the ambit of the Act.

    How is citizenship acquired in India?

    • In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods:
      • By birth in India,
      • By descent,
      • Through registration,
      • By naturalization (extended residence in India), and
      • By incorporation of territory into India.

    Controversy around the Bill

    • Targeting Muslims: The fundamental criticism of the Bill has been that it specifically targets Muslims.
    • Article 14: Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
    • In the North-eastern states: the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties, including fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture.
    • Law and order situation: The protests, some of them violent, have created a law and order situation. But even as the northeast and the rest of India join in the protests against the Act, the purpose of their protests are very different from each other.

    Significance

    • Benefit non-Muslims: There are apprehensions that the CAA, followed by a country-wide compilation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.
    • Religious persecution: The Bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.
    • Partition: The Bill is righting the wrongs of history by granting refuge to the sons and daughters of “Ma Bharti”, who were left stranded by Partition.
    • Fixing the error: It has linked the passage of the Bill with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), suggesting that even if the Assam NRC erred in leaving out some non-Muslims, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would fix the error.

    Source: TH