Discuss the provisions of the Citizenship (amendment) bill which has recently been passed in the parliament.

Published: December 9, 2019

Recently the proposal to introduce ‘citizenship (amendment) bill’ in the parliament passed with 293 members of Lok Sabha voting Aye and 82 members voting No.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, seeks to amend The Citizenship Act (1955) to make illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious affiliation citizenship of India. In simple words, the Bill is introduced to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of the Republic of India.

Under the previous version of the act, The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the main requirements to obtain citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.

The amendment brought in by the Narendra Modi government relaxes the second requirement from eleven years to six years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six minority religions in the three Muslim majority countries.

Under the citizenship Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time limit. Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.

Back in 2015 and 2016, the present government exempted certain groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts. These were of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian origin people from neighbouring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014. The new bill was introduced in parliament to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955, so that these people could be made eligible for citizenship of India.

One of the biggest criticisms of the new version of the Bill has been that it excludes Muslims. Critics of the bill argue that the bill violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality. The Bill is now likely to be introduced once again in the Winter Session. It will have to be passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to become a law.

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