Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016

Provisions of Bills:

  • The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship.
  • Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years. The Bill relaxes this 11 year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
  • The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.
Why is it being opposed?
  • The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Muslim majority countries, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • According to activists, this would mean, for instance, that the sizeable population of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh living in Assam would become citizens while Muslims who migrated to Assam from East Bengal a century ago would continue to be harassed as ‘illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Some term this move as “communally motivated humanitarianism.”
  • The new Bill also violates Article 14 of the constitution, say activists. Since Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution.
  • According to the Assam Accord of 1985, illegal migrants who had entered Assam from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, were to be detected and deported. But, the new Bill contradicts the terms of the Accord
Who is an illegal migrant?
The 1955 Act defines an illegal migrant as a foreigner who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time.
How does the law treat them?
Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported. They and their children are ineligible for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship Act of 1955.
Legal fallacies of the proposed law:
  • The proposed law violates India’s long-standing refugee policy. Although India does not have a codified refugee policy, the basic tenants of the scheme were listed by Jawaharlal Nehru during the Tibetan refugee crisis. One of the primary conditions given then was that refugees would have to return to their homeland once normalcy prevailed. The proposed law not only provides citizenship rights to such refugees, but greatly relaxes the procedure to avail of them.
  • From reducing the registration fees to Rs 100 from Rs 3000 to delegating the authority from the Union government to district magistrate for speedy processing of applications, the proposed law serves citizenship to illegal immigrants on a platter.
  • The Bill provides wide discretion to the government to cancel OCI registrations for both major offences like murder, as well as minor offences like parking in a no-parking zone or jumping a red light
Possible implications of this law:
Notwithstanding the tampering of domestic law with religious markers, the proposed Bill, if passed, will put our international relations in jeopardy. The Bill will stamp these countries as institutions of religious oppression and worsen bilateral ties in an already skewed regional socio-political atmosphere. The new law will also act as a push to the movement of India’s citizenship policy on jus soli to the racially manifested jus sanguine principle, something which was actively avoided by our constitution makers



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top