Gyaankosh – Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

What exactly is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the lower house of the Parliament in March 2015 by NDA government.
  • The bill seeks to remove disparity between persons of Indian origin (PIO) and overseas citizens of India (OCI) cardholders as laid down in the Citizenship Act of 1955.
  • Such individuals will not be liable for a class of rights conferred only on citizens of India. For example, constitutional rights such as equality of opportunity in matters of employment, appointment as judge of the Supreme Court or high courts will not be extended.
  • The central government will be also be liable for cancelling the registration in case of any false or fraud representation.
  • The bill was also introduced with the idea of bringing changes in the condition of naturalization by reducing the mandatory period of stay from 12 months to a maximum of 30 days.
Protests, Criticism and Debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill
  • The bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016 seeks to reduce the number of continuous years of stay in India needed to obtain citizenship by naturalization from 11 to 6 years.
  • As per existing laws, an illegal immigrant is a person who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents or is a person who stays in the country beyond the valid visa permit.
  • But the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 proposed a separate definition for illegal immigrants by making changes to the Citizenship Act 1955, to provide citizenship to illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian.
  • This amendment has received flak from people in Assam who objected to the bill terming it is unconstitutional. According to All Assam Students Union (AASU), the bill is unjust as it seeks to grant Indian citizenship only based on religion.
  • Many opposition parties including Congress, have opposed the proposal of granting citizenship based on religion. According to the opposition, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 would nullify the concept of National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is currently underway in Assam.
What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
  • National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in Assam.
  • NRC is updated on a regular basis in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who may have illegally entered the state after March 24, 1971 — the date decided in the Assam Accord of 1985. Following the NRC, any illegal immigrant found to have entered Assam after March 24, 1971 irrespective of their religion will be deported.
Will the bill outdo the purpose of NRC?
  • The NRC does not classify immigrants based on their religion, but the bill will grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees persecuted in neighbouring countries. Thus, if the bill becomes a reality it will defeat the very purpose of NRC as non-Muslims need not go through the deportation process.
  • Another reason of apprehension amongst the netizens of Assam is that many have found their names missing from the final draft of NRC.
Recent Developments
  • On 2nd Jan 2019, BJP decided to set up a panel to review the Assam Citizenship Bill to safeguard the interest of ethnic Assamese.
  • On 7th Jan 2019, the Asom Gana Parishad (AJP) pulled out of an alliance with state ruled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the bill. AGP President and minister Atul Bora stated that the Bill would alter the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the state.
  • On 8th Jan 2019, Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 amidst protests from the opposition parties. The opposition party raised concern over the proposed amendment in the bill that excluded Muslims and other minorities from Nepal and Assam.
  • Since 8th Jan 2019, there have been numerous protests in the state regarding the bill as they fear the bill will threaten the region’s ethnic balance.

*Note: The blog would be updated on a weekly basis as and when there would be any major development related to the case.

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