The contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill clears Parliament. The Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on December 11, 2019 with a majority of votes in its favour.
What does the bill propose?
The Bill accords citizenship on the basis of religion to six communities: Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christian from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It also loosened the provisions for “Citizenship by naturalisation” by reducing the duration of residency from 11 years to just 5 years for people belonging to any of the above mentioned religions and countries.
Background of the bill
Under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920, any migrant who enters the country with or without a valid travel document but stays beyond the permitted time period cannot avail the citizenship of India and would be deported or imprisoned. However the new Citizenship Amendment Bill proposes to make illegal migrants from religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, eligible for an Indian citizenship.
Which states are exempted from the Bill?
The Citizenship Amendment Bill exempts the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura included in the Six Schedule of the Constitution. It also exempts the areas covered under the Inner Line Permit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. These areas require Indians from other states to get ‘Inner Line Permit’ to pass through them.
In addition, the bill has also made amendments to provisions related to the Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders. According to the bill, a foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (for instance, former citizen of India or their descendants or the spouse of a person who is of Indian origin).
The amendments in the provisions of the bill are based on the Citizenship Act of 1955 that labels a person an “illegal immigrant” if he or she has entered India without valid travel documents or has stayed longer than the date specified in the documents.