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Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 

Topics covered:

  1. Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of the Bill, Citizenship Act 1955, Citizenship- acquisition and types available.

For Mains: Issues over the Bill, why NE States oppose to this bill?

 

Context: Citizens backed by various Non-Governmental Organisations across the North-Eastern States are protesting against the government’s bid to reintroduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

  • The proposed legislation was cleared by the Lok Sabha in January, 2019 but not tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

 

WHAT IS THE CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2016?

  • It seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.
  • It seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians —after 6 years of stay in India even if they do not possess any proper document. The current requirement is 12 years of stay.
  • The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.

The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais etc.

 

However, the bill is being criticised for the following reasons:

  1. It violates the basic tenets of the Constitution. Illegal immigrants are distinguished on the basis of religion.
  2. It is perceived to be a demographic threat to indigenous communities.
  3. The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality.
  4. It attempts to naturalise the citizenship of illegal immigrants in the region.
  5. The Bill allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences.

 

What is the Citizenship Act 1995?

Under Article 9 of the Indian Constitution, a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen.

  1. Citizenship by descent: Persons born outside India on or after January 26, 1950, but before December 10, 1992, are citizens of India by descent if their father was a citizen of India at the time of their birth.
  2. From December 3, 2004, onwards, persons born outside of India shall not be considered citizens of India unless their birth is registered at an Indian consulate within one year of the date of birth.
  3. In Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955, if an adult makes a declaration of renunciation of Indian citizenship, he loses Indian citizenship.