Citizenship Amendment Act: All that you need to know.
The Act seeks to amend the definition of illegal immigrants for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation. Protests have broken out across India, a few of them violent, against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
At the first hearing on petitions challenging the CAA, the Supreme Court declined to stay the contentious law. But asked the Centre to file its reply against the petitions that say it violates the Constitution. The petitioners say the Bill discriminates against Muslims and violates the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.
What is Citizenship Amendment Act?
The Indian government passed the Citizenship Act in 1955 to guarantee citizenship to all of the country’s residents. It made no distinction on the basis of religion. The Act provided two means for foreigners to acquire Indian citizenship. People from “undivided India” were given a means of registration after seven years of residency in India. Those from other countries were given a means of naturalization after twelve years of residency in India.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India on 11 December 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship. For members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities. All those who fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014. The amendment also relaxed the residency requirement for naturalization of these migrants from twelve years to six.
Under the 2019 amendment, migrants who had entered India by 31 December 2014, and had suffered “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their country of origin were made eligible for citizenship. Immediate beneficiaries of the Bill, according to the Intelligence Bureau of India, will be 31,313 refugees: 25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, 2 Buddhists, and 2 Parsis.
What are the new amendments in CAA 2019?
- 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.
- Persons belonging to the six minority communities who are compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution
- without valid documents including passport or other travel documents. And who has been exempted under rule 4 from the provisions of rule 3 of the Passport Rules, 1950 or with valid documents including passport or other travel document and the validity of any of such documents has expired,
are hereby granted exemption from the application of provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946.
- The Bill also makes amendments to provisions related to OCI cardholders. A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin or the spouse of a person of Indian origin. This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel, work and study in India. Bill amends the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration. If the person has violated any law notified by the central government.
- Citizenship Act, 1955 which requires the applicant to have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment relaxes this requirement from 11 years to six years, for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from the three nations.
- CAA won’t apply to areas under the sixth schedule of the constitution. Which deals with autonomous tribal-dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. The bill will also not apply to states that have the inner-line permit regime (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram).
What are the documents necessary under CAA 2019?
- Documents issued by the government of your home country (Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan) to prove that you are a Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Afghan national.
- Documentation issued by the government of your home country that proves you belong to one of those six listed minority religions.
- Documents to prove the date since you entered India or since you have been residing in India: even a Gram Panchayat Secretary Certificate would do.
- A sworn affidavit, attested by a government authority, stating that you were “compelled to enter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.”
Government’s clarification on CAA.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has released a clarification of the Central Government on the issue.
It has absolutely nothing to do with any Indian citizen in any way. The Indian citizens enjoy fundamental rights conferred on them by the Constitution of India. No statute, including the CAA, can abridge or take them away. There has been a misinformation campaign. The CAA does not affect any Indian citizens, including Muslim citizens.
The CAA does not apply to any Indian citizen at all. All Indian citizens enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. CAA will not deprive any Indian citizen of his citizenship. Rather it is a special law to enable certain foreigners facing a particular situation in three neighboring countries to get Indian citizenship.
The CAA has nothing to do with NRC. The legal provisions regarding NRC have been part of The Citizenship Act, 1955 since December 2004. Also, there are specific statutory rules of 2003 to operationalize these legal provisions. They govern the process of registration of Indian citizens and the issuance of national identity cards to them. These legal provisions have been on the statute books for the last 15-16 years. The CAA has not altered them in any way whatsoever.