Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 : An Analysis By Jatin Verma's IAS

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019: An analysis

Updated on 27 December, 2019

GS2 Polity Governance
citizenship-amendment-bill-2019-an-analysis

Context:

  • Recently, The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 of Parliament received the assent of the President. Later it was published for the general information in the Gazette of India. 
  • The amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 made illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship.
  • The said Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation.
  • The act does not apply to 6th Schedule Area and the Area covered under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the North-Eastern States. 

Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution: 

  • The Sixth Schedule relates to special provisions in administration of certain Northeastern states. 
  • It provides special powers for Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these states. 
  • ADCs have powers to enact laws in areas under their jurisdiction on a variety of subjects, one of its objectives being to boost self-governance by tribal communities.

Salient features of the bill: 

Features

Citizenship Act 1955

CAA 2019

Citizenship by Naturalization on the basis of Religious Persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan 

The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications (Religious basis was not among those)

To provide Indian nationality to six communities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhist

The cut-off date for entry to India to get citizenship under Naturalization

26th January 1950

31st December 2014 (Such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India)

Documents to seek Citizenship 

In the opinion of the Central Government, the applicant is a person who has rendered distinguished services to the cause of science, philosophy, art, literature, world peace or human progress generally.

No Valid travel Documents.

Duration of Stay in India Prior to Citizenship by naturalization

The 12 months before their application and for 11 years of the previous 14 years.

The 12 months before their application and for 5 years of the previous 8 years.

Differentiation between refugees

The Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. Illegal migrants are foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel document, or stay beyond the permitted time.  

Differentiate between those who are the "illegal immigrants" and those who took shelter in India after facing religious persecution.

Cancellation of Citizenship for OCI Card Holders

On five grounds:

  • Registration through fraud
  • Showing disaffection to the Constitution
  • Engaging with the enemy during war
  • Necessity in the interest of sovereignty of India, Security of state or public interest
  • If within five years of registration the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. 

1 more provision along with the existing 5 provisions: 

  • If the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.

Exclusions from the Applicability of CAA:

  • It shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura (the sixth schedule of the Constitution). These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.  
  • Areas covered in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP) (notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.) have also been excluded. 

The Inner Line Permit (ILP) system:

  • Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas.

  • When the regime was introduced under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, the objective was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions. 
  • In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”, to address local concerns about protecting their interests.
  • An Inner Line Permit is a document that allows an Indian citizen to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system. 
  • The system is in force today in three Northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
  • The Nagaland government extended the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system to Dimapur. This decision makes it mandatory for “every non-indigenous person” who entered the district after November 21, 1979, to obtain an ILP within 90 days.
  • The ILP is now extended to Manipur. The Centre only needed to issue an executive order under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, to extend ILP regime to Manipur.
  • No Indian citizen can visit any of these states unless he or she belongs to that state, nor can he or she overstay beyond the period specified in the ILP.
  • An ILP is issued by the state government concerned. 
  • It can be obtained after applying either online or physically. 
  • It states the dates of travel and also specifies the particular areas in the state which the ILP holder can travel to.

 

State by State Report:

  • Assam: The state has three Autonomous District Councils, two of which are geographically contiguous. While these are protected, CAB will be in effect in a larger area.
  • Meghalaya: This state too has three ADCs. Unlike in Assam, the ADCs in Meghalaya cover almost the entire state. Only a small part of Shillong is not covered. CAB will be effective in that part of Shillong while the rest of the state is protected.
  • Tripura: One ADC covers around 70% of the state’s area. However, the remaining 30% holds about two-thirds of the population. CAB is effective in the smaller, more densely populated regions.
  • Arunachal Pradesh: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB.
  • Nagaland: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB. So far, only Dimapur used to be outside the regime. Now, ILP has been extended to Dimapur, too, so the whole state is now exempt.
  • Mizoram: Entire state covered under ILP regime, protected from CAB. Additionally, the state has three ADCs that are also protected under the Sixth Schedule.
  • Manipur: Entire state gets new ILP protection. The state was not protected under either option, but following the introduction of CAB in Parliament, the government has introduced ILP in Manipur too.
     

Source: The Hindu

Citizenship Provisions in the Constitution:

  • The Constitution does not lay down a permanent or comprehensive provision relating to citizenship in India. 
  • Articles 5 to 11 (Part II of the Constitution) describes classes of persons for citizenship at the time of commencement of the Constitution (26th January, 1950).
  • It leaves the entire law of citizenship to be regulated by law made by Parliament.
  • Various Articles and their related provisions are: 
    • Article 5: Citizenship at the commencement of the Constitution
    • Article 6: Rights of citizenship of certain persons who have migrated to India from Pakistan
    • Article 7: Rights of citizenship of certain migrants to Pakistan
    • Article 8: Rights of citizenship of certain persons of Indian origin residing outside India
    • Article 9: Persons voluntarily acquiring citizenship of a foreign State not to be citizens
    • Article 10: Continuance of the rights of citizenship
    • Article 11: Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law

The Citizenship Act, 1955  

  • It provides for acquisition of citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and by incorporation of territory into India.  
  • It prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. 
  • It defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner: 
    • who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents
    • stays beyond the permitted time.  
  • It regulates registration of Overseas Citizen of India Cardholders (OCIs) and their rights. 
  • It allows The government of India to cancel the registration of OCIs on grounds such as fraudulent registration, imprisonment for more than 2 years within 5 years of registration, sovereignty & security of the country etc.
  • Eg. - Recently the Government of India has cancelled the OCI card of Aatish Ali Tasser on the ground of concealing the fact
  • The Citizenship Act has been amended five times before (1986, 1992, 2003, 2005 and 2015)

Source: Indian Express

The Concerns raised due to CAA:

  • Historical Impinge:
    • India was not created on the basis of religion, Pakistan was.
    • All the founders of India were committed to a secular state, where all citizens irrespective of religion enjoyed full membership. 
    • Afghanistan was not part of pre-Partition India.
  • Violation of Constitutional Provisions:
    • The proposed bill is a violation of Article 14 which guarantees the right to equality.
    • Article 14 is not confined to the citizens. It gives benefits of equality to any person within the territory of India even to a foreigner.
    • Leaving out Muslims aren’t in line with the basic feature (Secularism) of the Constitution.
    • Supreme Court in The Kesavananda Bharati Case: The basic structure (Secularism) of the Constitution cannot be reshaped by any Parliamentary provisions.
    • The Constitution does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith of Worship
    • It also undermines the very foundation of the Republic in a spacious and plural idea that was nurtured and nourished by the freedom movement.
    • Once challenged in the Apex Court, it has to see whether the CAA (Included under reasonable Classification) has been founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out. 
  • The Concern of the North-East: 
    • In the northeast, it is feared that granting citizenship to foreign refugees will undermine the ethnic communities
    • The bill is in conflict with other initiatives like National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Assam Accord 1985.
    • The  sub-nationalist politics may emerge. Eg. The Brahmaputra Valley (Opposing the Bill) Vs. the Barak Valley (Supporting the Bill).
  • Contradiction with the NRC:
    • The recently concluded National Register of Citizen (NRC) for the state of Assam, has excluded 19 Lakhs people. 
    • Majority of the Excluded are Hindu who came during 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. 
    • Apprehension is there, that the amendment is to provide citizenship to the NRC excluded Hindu. 
    • Government has also proposed NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizen) which is all India (Excluding Assam) exercise, just similar to the NRC of Assam. Thus the NRIC Exercise and the CAA will have overlapping function. It may cost heavy to India’s Exchequer. 
    • The Cut-Off Date in the NRC (Mid-night of 24-25 March 1985) and the Proposal in the CAA (December 31, 2014), both are different.  
  • The Concern Regarding OCI Citizenship:
    • The bill contains the wide ground for cancelling OCI registration: such as parking in a no-parking zone or traffic violation etc.
  • Demographic Concern: 
    • Though the Cut-Off date is 31st Dec. 2014, It may give impetus to the influx of immigrants from the three countries. India already has a huge population burden. 
  • Methodology Concerns:
    • There is no concrete data to tell exactly how many illegal immigrants are there in India.
    • The religious affiliation of the migrants are also not conclusively known. 
    • It is not yet clear as to how the Government of India will ascertain whether the applicant was actually persecuted in her parent country for following a particular religion.
    • None of the three countries - for that matter no country in the world - admits that it encourages religious persecution.
  • Negligence of Other Neighboring Countries’ Refugee 
    • The excluded people from the Aasam’s NRC didn’t get citizenship through CAA. . 
    • If the intent is to protect victims of persecution, there is no logic to restrict it only to religious persecution (Excluding Political persecution). 
    • The reasons for leaving out refugees from other neighbouring countries like Sri Lankan Tamil, Chakma and Hajong of Myanmar etc is not yet clear. 
    • If the CAA is born of empathy for the vulnerable and the persecuted, why not extend it to the Rohingya from Myanmar, or the Ahmadiyas from Pakistan?
    • If the ‘State Religion’ has been taken into consideration then there is no logic to leave the christian minority of Bhutan (constitutionally a religious state — the official religion being Vajrayana Buddhism) from the list.

The Proponents’ Stand on the CAA:

  • The CAA is under the defined reasonable classification limit of Article 14 of the Constitution. 
  • Minorities in the neighbouring theocratic countries have been subjected to continuous persecutions, which forced them to seek asylum in India. Thus the government is duty bound to make provisions for them. 
  • The Bill has proposed to make provisions to protect tribal areas which are notified under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • It has provisions to exclude the area covered under the inner line notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier regulation, 1873.
  • The three neighbouring countries were essentially Islamic nations and so it is non-Muslims who are at the receiving end of religious persecution there.
  • The government responds that Muslims can seek refuge in other Islamic nations.
  • The Government states that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is ‘not against minorities but against infiltrators’. 

The Assam Accord (1985) 

  • It was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement on 15 August 1985.
  • It brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government.
  • It states that Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 will be barred from voting for ten years. 
  • It has a provision that the international borders will be sealed and all persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 (Midnight of 24-25 March) are to be deported.

Way Forward:

  • The government should balance the vision of providing a citizenship to persecuted minorities with the provisions of non-dilution of indigenous identity of the citizen.  
  • Adopting a 2011 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Home Ministry. According to that, anyone who could establish persecution of any form — not just religious, but also social persecution, caste-based and so on, would be entitled to a long-term visa in India. And, this would be examined on a case-to-case basis. 
  • Government must recognise a range of statuses that exist between ‘illegal immigrants’ and citizens  — temporary work visas, long-term visas and so on.
  • The Concern of various stakeholders must be resolved amicably. 
  • The provision should not violate the basic structure principle of the constitution. The provisions should be in tandem with the Idea of India. 
  • The Jews from Mizoram who migrated to Israel also returned back and staying in the refugee camp.
  • The Srilankan Tamil who are staying in India after suffering the ethnic cleansing, needs to be either deported or given the citizenship. 
  • Measures to arrest the chaos prevalent in the country over CAA: Government should use the Information channel to counter the chaos regarding the CAA. It should spread the positive impact of the Amendment. 
  • The state should respect the judgement of the NHRC Vs. The State of Arunachal Pradesh 1996. Through this judgement, the refugees has been accorded the constitutional protection
  • The apex court should relook its judgement in Sarbananda Sonowal v Union of India 2005. 
  • Indian Government  is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention of UNHCR.  It should bring the stand-alone law related to the refugee and asylum, instead of dealing with this issue through The Registration of Foreigners Act 1939 and The Foreigners Act 1946. 
  • India should see the possible way to sign The Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. It is a 1961 United Nations multilateral treaty whereby sovereign states agree to reduce the incidence of statelessness.
  • Non-refoulement is a customary international law norm. Government must ensure that this customary norm is not violated. 
  • The Government should intensify the diplomatic channel to contain the growing global resentment against CAA. It should take various government into confidence.

The CAA will give the new identity to the religious persecuted citizens of the  three neighboring nation who are refugees in India. While the humanitarian ground for the refugee can be justified, it is necessary to not let harm the indigenous identity of Indian. The Government should ensure the concerns raised by the friendly neighbor is resolved amicably


Categories : newcategory,
Read Also
...
Current Affairs Based Mains Drill – 29 January 2020
...
(Answer Synopsis): Current Affairs Based Mains Drill - 27 January 2020
...
Daily News Prescription - 29 January 2020
...
GOVT GOES FOR 100% DISINVESTMENT IN AIR INDIA