Union government has proposed amendment to on the Citizenship Act of 1995.
What is the Citizenship Act of 1955 about?
- In India, the Citizenship Act, 1955 prescribes five ways of acquiring citizenship
- Incorporation of the territory.
- For Citizenship under 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.
- According to the Citizenship Act (1955), an illegal immigrant is defined as a person who enters India without a valid passport or stays in the country after the expiry of the visa permit.
- Also, the immigrant who uses false documents for the immigration process.
- In short, illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan will be imprisoned or deported.
- To address issues in the Citizenship Act of 1955, the Citizenship Amendment Bill was proposed in 2016.
Who cannot be considered as citizen of India?
- Under Article 9 of the Indian Constitution, a person who voluntarily acquires citizenship of any other country is no longer an Indian citizen.
- 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.
- In Section 8 of the Citizenship Act 1955, if an adult makes a declaration of renunciation of Indian citizenship, he loses Indian citizenship.
What is the recent proposal about?
- The proposed law, which amends the original Citizenship Act of 1955, mandates that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be treated as illegal immigrants despite having entered India without valid documents.
- The amendments seek to include a separate column in the citizenship form for applicants belonging to six minority communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
- They will not face deportation as illegal immigrants under the Passport (Entry into India) Act of 1920 and the Foreigners Act of 1946.
- The amendment shortens the period of residency from 12 years (mentioned in the Citizenship Act, 1955) to seven years for gaining permanent citizenship by naturalization.
- The Bill also empowers the government to cancel registration as OCI in case of any violation of the Citizenship Act or any other laws.
What is the need for the amendment?
- The Bill explains that many persons of Indian origin including persons belonging to the six “minority communities” from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been unsuccessfully applying for citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1955 but are unable to produce proof of their Indian origin.
- Hence, they are forced to apply for citizenship by naturalization which prescribes 12 years’ residency as qualification.
- The Bill states that such a long-drawn process denies illegal immigrants from these six minority communities of the three nations “many opportunities and advantages that may accrue only to the citizens of India, even though they are likely to stay in India permanently”.
What are few issues needs to address?
- The proposed bill violates the basic tenets of the Constitution, By distinguishing illegal immigrants on the basis of religion, the proposed law goes against the fundamental right to equality under Article 14.
- The protection of Article 14 applies equally to both citizens and foreigners.
- The Bill would hamper what the Assam National Register of Citizens seeks to achieve in the State.
- The NRC does not distinguish on the basis of faith unlike the 2016 Bill.
- As the Bill is a threat to the cultural and linguistic identity of the people of Assam.
- The Bill, if passed as law, would be challenged in the Supreme Court on the grounds of Article 14 and as a move to disturb the NRC process.