ANALYSIS OF CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019


If this monsoon session created history by abrogating controversial Article 370 of the constitution that vanished the special power given to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, this Winter Season popped up with one of the most contentious and delicate legislation – Citizenship Amendment Bill, which now, after being passed by both the houses has become an Act.

Method To Acquire Citizenship In India
In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act clearly specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods:
  • By Birth in India
  • By descent
  • Through registration
  • By naturalisation ( extended residence in India)
  • By incorporation of the territory into India.
The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by Naturalisation if the person meets certain qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person 

Insight of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
An illegal migrant is a foreigner who either enters India illegally, i.e., without valid travel documents, for instances a visa and passport, or enters India legally, but stays beyond the time period permitted in their travel documents. Such an illegal migrant is prohibited from acquiring Indian Citizenship, so they can be prosecuted in India, and imprisoned or deported.
In September 2015 and July 2016, the central government exempted certain groups of illegal migrants from being imprisoned or deported. This Act makes it easier for the non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim Majority Neighbours – Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan – to become a citizen of India. The fact is that it entitles Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians communities illegal migrants who came into India from above-mentioned states on or before December 31, 2014, thus, the amendment relaxes requirement mentioned in Citizenship Act, which allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalization, if the person qualifies the condition which states that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years, through time period has been relaxed from 11 years to six years.

Amendment For OCI Holder
OCI cardholders are foreigners who are persons of Indian origin. An OCI enjoys benefits such as the right to travel to India without a visa, or to work and study here. In the present scenario, govt. may cancel a person’s OCI registration on various grounds and on such cancellation, OCI may be required to leave the country. The act adds another ground for cancellation that is a violation of any law notified by the central government; however, the nature of law may be notified by the govt. is unspecified. The guidance is necessary to set limits on the authority’s powers and to avoid any arbitrariness in the exercise of powers as specified by the Supreme Court. Thus if not specified the powers may go beyond the permissible limits of valid delegation.

Applicability of This Act
The Act clarifies candidly that the proposed amendments on citizenship to the specified class of illegal migrants will not apply to certain areas such as-
  • The tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and
  • The states regulated by the “Inner Line” permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873.
These Sixth Schedule tribal area does include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura tribal areas district. Further, the Inner Line Permit regulates visit of all persons, including Indian Citizens, to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

Controversial Aspect of The Act
This Bill offers benefits to only certain illegal migrants eligible for citizenship as already mentioned above, which implies that all other illegal migrants will not be able to claim the benefit of the citizenship conferred by the Act, and would continue to be prosecuted as illegal migrants. Any provision which distinguishes between two groups may violate the standard of equality guaranteed under the Constitution unless one can show the reasonable rationale for doing so. So this particular Act provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of: 
  • Their country of origin
  • Religion
  • Date of entry into India, and
  • Place of residence in India.
The debate arose whether these factors serve a reasonable purpose to justify the differential treatment. The Act as classifies the migrants on basis of their country of origin includes only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though Statement of Objects and Reasons (SOR) tried reasoning the above classification that millions of citizens of undivided India were living in Pakistan and Bangladesh this logic clearly fails to justify the inclusion of Afghanistan. The SOR also contends that these countries have a state religion, which has resulted in religious persecution of minority groups. However, there are other countries as well which fit into this category, for instance, Sri Lanka (Buddhist state Religion) and Myanmar (primacy to Buddhism), have a history of persecution of Tamil Eelam (a linguistic minority in Sri Lanka) and Rohingya Muslims, respectively. Also, there are other religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, such as the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan (considered non-Muslims in that country) and atheists in Bangladesh who might have faced religious persecution and may have illegally migrated to India. Thus, this seems unjustified when the very objective of Act states to provide citizenship to migrants escaping from religious persecution, then why illegal migrants belonging to other neighboring countries, have been excluded from the Act. Furthermore, this Act differentiates on the basis of the when migrants entered India, and where they live in India (provisions not applicable to Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit areas). However, the reason for the restrictions remains unclear, also attention needs to be paid to certain restrictions as mentioned in Sixth Schedule areas and in the States regulated by the Inner Line Permit apply to the person (to both Citizens and Foreigners), so once an illegal migrant residing in these area gets citizenship, he would be subject to the same restrictions in these areas, as are applicable to other Indian citizens. Thus it is unclear why the bill excludes the applicability of Act in these areas.

Protest in Northeast Areas 
Among the states in the Northeast, the outrage against CAA has been most intense in Assam. While the chunks of these states have been exempted from the legislation, it covers a large part of Assam. The protest stems from the fear that Bill would change the demography of the states if it is passed as people of the different cultures and languages will get citizenship of the country. Currently, there exists fear from Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh in the northeast.

References
[1] Citizenship Act, 1955 §2(1)(b).
[2] State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar A.I.R. 1952 SC 75.
[3] Humdard Dawakhana and Anr. v. The Union of India (UOI) and Ors., A.I.R. 1960 S.C. 554
[4] Constitution of India, Art.14.
[5] State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar  A.I.R. 1952 SC 75.
[6] Constitution of Democratic Social Republic of Sri Lanka, Art.9.
[7] Constitution of Republic of Union of Myanmar, art. 360 & 361.
[8] “Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis”, BBC News, available here
[9] The Second Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan passed in 1974 effectively declared Ahmaddiyas as non-Muslims
[10] The Guardian, available here

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