Centre Notifies Rules for Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Implementation

On March 11, 2024, the Centre notified the Rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), setting the stage for the implementation of the controversial law more than four years after its passage in Parliament in December 2019. The CAA aims to provide citizenship to thousands of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who entered India before December 31, 2014, and have been living in the country illegally or on long-term visas (LTV).

Eligibility and Requirements for CAA Beneficiaries

The CAA Rules outline the information and documentation required for the intended beneficiaries to apply for Indian citizenship. Migrants from the specified countries need to prove their country of origin, religion, date of entry into India, and knowledge of an Indian language. The law presumes that members of these communities faced religious persecution in their countries of origin and has reduced the period of citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to five.

Proof of Country of Origin

The CAA Rules have significantly relaxed the requirements for establishing the country of origin. Instead of a valid passport issued by Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan, along with a copy of a valid Residential Permit of India, applicants can now provide various documents such as birth or educational institution certificates, identity documents, licenses, land or tenancy records, or any other document issued by these countries to prove their citizenship. Documents showing that the applicant’s parents, grandparents, or great grandparents were citizens of one of the three countries are also acceptable, even beyond their validity period.

Date of Entry into India

To establish the date of entry into India, the Rules list 20 admissible documents, including valid visas or residential permits issued by the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), census enumerator slips, driving licenses, Aadhaar, ration cards, government or court-issued letters, Indian birth certificates, land or tenancy records, registered rent agreements, PAN card issuance documents, and various other official documents.

Processing of Citizenship Applications

The Centre has tweaked the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from the three countries, minimizing the role of states in the matter. Applications will be submitted electronically to a District Level Committee (DLC) and processed by an Empowered Committee, both instituted by the Centre. The Empowered Committee, headed by a Director (Census Operations), will include representatives from the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, FRRO, National Informatics Centre, and Postmaster General of the state. The DLC will consist of the District Informatics Officer or Assistant and a nominee of the central government.

Previous Efforts to Address Refugee Concerns

The CAA is not the first attempt by the government to address the plight of refugees from neighboring countries. Steps in this direction were taken as early as 2002 when the Vajpayee government amended The Citizenship Rules to grant LTVs and citizenship to migrants in certain border districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Subsequent governments under Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi have also issued notifications and amendments to facilitate the grant of LTVs and citizenship to specific categories of migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. In 2019, the Union Cabinet cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha later.

Benefits for LTV Holders

In 2018, a year before the passage of the CAA, the government issued a notification making Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from the three countries eligible for LTVs if they sought Indian citizenship. This notification extended a range of benefits to LTV holders, including the ability to get a private job, start a business, admit their children to school, move freely within the state, open a bank account, buy a house, and obtain a driving licence, PAN, and Aadhaar.

Opposition to CAA Implementation

Despite the Centre’s efforts to streamline the citizenship process for non-Muslim migrants from the specified countries, some opposition-ruled states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, have stated their intention not to implement the CAA. However, the new Rules have been designed to minimize the role of states in the citizenship application process, with the Empowered Committee and DLC being instituted by the Centre.
The European Parliament’s move to vote on the resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was opposed by India in 2020. The United Nation Human Rights Commission moved to Supreme Court on the matter of Citizenship Amendment Act.



Leave a Reply