Brief Analysis of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?

According to the CAA, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Parsi migrants who have entered India illegally, without a visa-on or before December 31, 2014 from the Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and have stayed within the country for five years, are eligible to use for Indian citizenship.

Why does this Act only cover three Countries and why are migrants from other countries -- such as Hindus from Sri Lanka -- not eligible to apply for citizenship under this act? Or Muslim (Rohingya) migrants from Myanmar?

The government says this is a time-bound provision to give relief to immigrants who have suffered in Islamic countries because India got divided. India has, from time to time, provided citizenship to immigrants of all religions from different countries. Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus, too, got citizenship within the 1970s and 1980s. The Union government has openly said that the Rohingyas are a threat to national security. Even an Islamic country like Saudi Arabia has deported Rohingya migrants. The BJP's logic is that Hindu migrants have only India to fall back on while Muslim migrants have several Islamic countries to get shelter in.

Why people are protesting against CAA?

There has been widespread protest throughout the country including our national capital Delhi and northeastern states against CAA. The agitators say that the new amendment discriminates against Muslims and violates the right to equality of the Indian Constitution. Sects like Shia's and Ahmedi's also kinds of ill-treatment in Muslim majority countries like Pakistan but are not enlisted in the amendment. Exclusion of persecuted minorities from other regions like Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Myanmar are also not included in this amendment.

Why do we need this new provision? Don't we've enough provisions to provide citizenship to outsiders?

Yes, we do have, but they're applicable only to those that have entered India legally, that is, with a legitimate visa. Adnan Sami was in India legally. Illegal immigrants-who cross the border with none paperwork-can't apply for citizenship and, when caught, face prosecution. India is among the few countries within the world that have neither a national refugee protection framework nor an immigration policy. It is also not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. India has also not ratified the 1954 UN Convention on Statelessness or the 1961 UN Convention on Reduction of Statelessness. It is under no obligation, therefore, to supply rights began within the conventions to refugees. It takes decisions on granting long-term visas to refugees essentially on a billboard hoc basis. It does have some laws that govern refugees, including the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939; Foreigners Act, 1946; and therefore the Passport Act, 1967.

In India, while refugees from neighboring countries (barring Myanmar) can seek protection directly from the govt and are issued documentation by the Foreigner Regional Registration Officers (FRROs), non-neighboring countries and Myanmar come under the UNHCR mandate that assesses each individual asylum claim and issues an ID card to those recognized as refugees after seeking bio-metric data for registration, followed by a comprehensive interview by a UNHCR officer. The whole process takes anywhere between six months and a year. The government currently allows refugees, including Rohingya, with UNHCR IDs to use for a "long-term visa", which the govt issues on a case by case basis. However, this doesn't make them Indian citizens.

Why is Assam protesting against the CAA?

Though this legislation covers refugees from three countries, the people of Assam fear that the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in large numbers across the state will get the benefit and would outnumber the Assamese within the state. They cite the instance of Tripura, where Bengali-speaking Hindu migrants from Bangladesh now dominate political power, pushing the first tribal population to the margins. Unlike other parts of India, where people are questioning the exclusion of Muslims, the Assamese do not want immigrants of any region as a whole, whether Hindu or Muslim, this fact does not matter to them.

How is the CAA connected to the NRC?

The two have no connection. The NRC is a count of legitimate Indian citizens. Barring the state of Assam, this exercise has never been done anywhere in the country. Union home minister Amit Shah has said he will frame a nationwide NRC by 2024 to detect illegal migrants. On December 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government had never said anything about an NRC except in Assam

Difference between CAA and NRC?

*The Citizenship Amendment Act is based on religion where Muslims those who are persecuted minorities from India's three Muslim majority neighbors - Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is excluded from seeking citizenship in India. Whereas National Register of Citizens is not based on religion but helps to detect illegal immigrants regardless of their caste, creed or religion and detain and eventually deport them.

*NRC is limited to only Assam, it won't function anywhere outside Assam within India but CAA is applicable throughout India. NRC is state-specific only. CAA is a nationwide Act and implemented across the country. Though many CM's are against it and had voiced their opinion to block the law in their state, But it is not possible to not follow the Centre's order.

Legal Ambit of CAA

Basically People question that CAA falls against the article 14,15 and 21 of Indian Constitution.

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution defines that the state shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of laws within the territory of India. There is scope of permissible classification for the purpose of Article 14.

the reasonable classification is;

- It must be able to differentiate people or things that are grouped together and form others left out of the group.

-People or things that are compared must have a rational relation to the object which is left behind.

CAA passes both tests, so it doesn't violate it.

Article 15 of the Constitution applies only to the citizens of India, whereas CAA deals exclusively with the non-citizens of India. It provides for the prohibition against discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or birthplace. CAA doesn't violate Article 15 of the Indian Constitution as it deals with non-citizens of India.

Article 21 provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. CAA doesn't deprive any person of their life and personal liberty. It is only helping one class of persecuted people.

While dealing with this issue, we should also consider looking upon Article 11 of the Constitution. It provides Parliament discretion to legislate with relation to acquisition and termination of citizenship as the saying goes with great power and responsibility.

The state needs to consider various factors before conferring citizenship on a class of immigrants. Unless the policy can be proved inadequate or defective CAA can't be proved unconstitutional.


© The People Bookmark | 2020

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