- Recently ,the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released the annual report for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) .
- The notification of rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) remains pending for over two years.
- The report said between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, 3,014 and 217 cases of Long Term Visa (LTV) have been disposed of by the MHA for minority communities from Pakistan and Afghanistan, respectively.
- During the same period, one case of LTV for minority community from Bangladesh was also disposed of by the MHA, even as a total of 412 Citizenship Certificates were granted by various competent authorities.
- According to the report, as many as 32,79,315 foreigners (including 4,751 Pakistani nationals) visited India during the period despite a raging pandemic.
What is The Citizenship (Amendment) Act?
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) is an act that was passed in the Parliament on December 11, 2019.
- The 2019 CAA amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 allowing Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who fled from the neighboring Muslim majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014 due to “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution”.
- However, the Act excludes Muslims.
- Under CAA 2019 amendment, migrants who entered India by December 31, 2014, and had suffered “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their country of origin, were made eligible for citizenship by the new law.
- These types of migrants will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement for naturalisation of these migrants from eleven years to five.
- Relaxations: Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
- The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
- Definition: Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who
- Enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or
- Enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
- Exemptions: Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
- It exempts the members of the six communities from any criminal case under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920.
- The two Acts specify punishment for entering the country illegally and staying here on expired visas and permits.
- Sixth Schedule: The Citizenship (Amendment) Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- Also areas that fall under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview.
- This keeps almost the entire Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland out of the ambit of the Act.
- It would ensure protection of indigenous and tribal populations of the region.
How is citizenship acquired in India?
- In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods:
- By birth in India,
- By descent,
- Through registration,
- By naturalization (extended residence in India), and
- By incorporation of territory into India.
- Benefit non-Muslims: It will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.
- Religious persecution: It aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.
- Partition: It is righting the wrongs of history by granting refuge to the sons and daughters of “Ma Bharti”, who were left stranded by Partition.
- Targeting Muslims: The fundamental criticism of the act has been that it specifically targets Muslims.
- The protesters claimed that the law violates the Constitution as it aims to grant Indian citizenship on the basis of religion — barring Muslims.
- Article 14: Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
- In the North-eastern states: the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties, including fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture.
- Law and order situation: The protests, some of them violent, have created a law and order situation. But even as the northeast and the rest of India join in the protests against the Act, the purpose of their protests are very different from each other.
- According to the government the legislation is “compassionate and ameliorative” and does not deprive any Indian of citizenship.
- The CAA is a limited and narrowly tailored legislation which seeks to provide a relaxation to aforesaid specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date.
- The CAA does not apply to Indian citizens. Therefore, it does not in any way take away or abridge the rights of any Indian citizen.
- The present legal process of acquiring Indian citizenship by any foreigner of any category as provided in the Citizenship Act-1955 is very much operational and the CAA does not amend or alter this legal position in any manner whatsoever.
- Hence, legal migrants of any religion from any country will continue to get Indian citizenship once they fulfil the eligibility conditions already provided in the law for registration or naturalisation.
- The CAA does not affect the protection granted by the Constitution to indigenous population of northeastern states