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Things to Know about the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

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Amended Sec 2 of The Citizenship Act, 1955

“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”

Overview of the bill

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (Commonly referred to as CAB) was passed by Parliament of India to provide Citizenship to those people who immigrated mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. There is a history of immigration of people belonging to the Minority Communities from across the borders of India as they wanted to protect themselves against the inhumane treatment in their own country. The people especially who immigrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were spoken about under this bill.  When India was partitioned in 1947, Millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various religions were staying in the Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities were ill-treated on grounds of religion in those countries, mainly because the Constitution of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are not secular in nature.  They were restricted to practice their religion; most of them were also ill-treated in their day-to-day life.

Gradually the persecuted people fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents were expired or with incomplete or no documents. The Citizenship Act, 1955 was enacted to provide for the acquisition and determination of Indian Citizenship. Under the Existing Provisions of the Act, migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who entered India without valid travel documents or if the validity of their documents has expired are regarded as illegal migrants and ineligible to apply for Indian Citizenship under Section 5 or Section 6 of the Act.

The Central Government exempted the said migrants from the adverse penal consequences of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946. Subsequently, the Central Government also made them eligible for long term visa to stay in India. Since many of them have entered into India long back, they may be given the Citizenship of India from the date of their entry in India if they fulfil conditions for Indian Citizenship specified in Section 5 or the Qualifications for the Naturalization under the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Act.

Now, it is proposed to make the said migrants eligible for Indian Citizenship by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955. The illegal migrants who have entered into India on or before 31.12.2014 need a special regime to own their citizenship. For this purpose, the Central Government shall grant the certificate of registration or Certificate of Naturalization subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner prescribed under the bill.

Section 5, under the provision of the Third Schedule of the Citizenship Act 1955, is amended as the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, whose aggregate period of residence or service of Government in India is “not less than five years” instead of “not less than eleven years” bypassing the citizenship amendment bill 2019.

Further Sec 6B has been inserted in the view of instruction to an authority to grant a Certificate of Registration or Certificate of Naturalization to a person who is referred in Amended Sec 2 of The Citizenship Act, 1955 on the application.

The Bill further seeks to protect the constitutional guarantee to original populations of North Eastern States covered under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the statutory protection is given to areas covered under “The Inner Line” system of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. As mentioned in Sec 7D of Amended Citizenship Bill 2019.

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