The Cabinet has cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB for tabling in parliament. The bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants in the select categories eligible for citizenship.

Provisions of the Bill:

  • The CAB seeks to provide Indian nationality to six communities — Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh
  • These categories of migrants must have arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • They must be living in India without valid travel documents to obtain Indian citizenship.
  • Citizenship by naturalization: The proposed amendment requires those seeking citizenship must have lived in India in the 12 months before their application and for 6 years (Earlier 11 years) of the previous 14 years.
  • Clear differentiation between those who are the "illegal immigrants" and those who took shelter in India after facing religious persecution in the neighbouring countries.
  • Cancellation of registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) for violation of any law in the country. 
  • It shall not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura (the sixth schedule of the Constitution) and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP)


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 Proponent of the bill:

  • Minorities in the neighbouring theocratic countries have been subjected to continuous persecutions, which forced them to seek asylum in India. 
  • The Indian government will ensure the spirit of ‘Sarva dharma sambhav’ while giving citizenship to six minorities.
  • 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 Citizenship Act, 1955  

  • It provides for acquisition of citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalization and by incorporation of the 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 the 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 opponent of the bill:

  • The proposed bill is a violation of Article 14 which guarantees the right to equality.
  • Leaving out Muslims aren’t in line with the basic feature (Secularism) of the Constitution.
  • Violation of the Constitution as it does not differentiate between citizens on the basis of their faith.
  • In the northeast, it is feared that granting citizenship to foreign refugees will undermine the ethnic communities
  • The reasons for leaving out other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar etc is not yet clear. Though a large number of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees reside in India. 
  • The bill is in conflict with other initiatives like the 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).
  • The bill contains the wide ground for cancelling OCI registration: such as parking in a no-parking zone or traffic violation etc
  • It may lead to the influx of immigrants from the three countries. India already has a huge population burden. 

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 citizenship to persecuted minorities with the provisions of non-dilution of the indigenous identity of the citizen.  
  • The provision should not violate the basic structure principle of the constitution. 
  • The provisions should be in tandem with the Idea of India. 
  • The Concern of various stakeholders must be resolved amicably. 
  • The Jews from Mizoram who migrated to Israel also returned back and staying in the refugee camp. Their citizenship needs to be established. 
  • The Srilankan Tamil who are staying in India after suffering the ethnic cleansing needs to be either deported or given the citizenship.