Citizenship Amendment Act 2019: A Ready Reckoner

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Citizenship Amendment Act 2019: A Ready Reckoner

G Plus News | December 17, 2019 16:33 hrs

GUWAHATI: Amidst protests, curfews and several outbreaks in the country the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) now Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament and became a law on December 12, 2019.

But what is CAB and why is it creating a chaos in India/Assam? Here is all you need to know about CAB.

 

1. What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was brought in the Parliament to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955. It was passed in both the houses of Parliament. After receiving the President's assent the bill is now called Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 (CAB) seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 by making Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan become eligible for Indian citizenship provided such people had entered the country before December 31, 2014. The Bill, however, does not talk about other Indian minority communities, particularly Muslims.

The Bill also proposes to relax the norms of such people in applying for citizenship. The 11 year period of residency in India is a mandatory requirement under normal citizenship rules. For such people as earlier mentioned and belonging to the six religious communities, the same will be relaxed so that they can apply for citizenship after just six years of residency in India.

It is to be noted that the Citizenship Act of 1955 defines illegal migrants as foreigners who come to India without valid travel documents or those who stay in the country even after their permitted time period.

The 1955 Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. The original Act allows a person to apply for citizenship if they have resided in India for 12 months immediately preceding the application for citizenship and for 11 of the previous 14 years prior to the 12-month period.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was tabled in Lok Sabha on 9th December and it was passed at midnight. The bill was later passed in the Rajya Sabha on 11th December. The Bill became the Citizenship Amendment Act and law on 13th December after receiving the President’s assent. 

CAB, now CAA, does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because these areas are included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.  

2. Why are the people of Assam protesting against CAB?

CAB, now CAA, which has been welcomed by the majority of India, is however facing backlash in several parts of the country. Protesters against CAA have emerged in several parts of the country but they differ from each other. The protesters from the northeast- Assam are against CAA because they fear that if the act is implemented it will endanger their linguistic and demographic exclusivity. CAA also invalidates the 34 year old Assam Accord which was the culmination of a 6 year long agitation from 1979 to 1985, that left 855 dead and many injured. 

The Assam Accord had two significant clauses - 5 & 6. Clause 5 specifically pertained to detection, deletion and deportation of illegal migrants present on Assamese soil. Clause 6 pertained to the safeguard of Assamese identity, culture and literature against the onslaught of this illegal infiltration. CAA, if implemented, will make the Assam Accord null and void.

It is to be noted that CAA does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of these states being included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The Inner Line Permit system also exempts Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur from implementation of CAA. 

On the other hand, protesters from several parts of the country like Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala etc are against CAA because it excludes Muslims, making the act unconstitutional. Protesters claim that the act violates Article 14 of the constitution which allows the fundamental right to equality to all persons.

3. What is the Assam accord?

The Assam Accord is a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed by the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the presence of the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi on August 15, 1985. On behalf of AASU the accord was signed by its then president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and general secretary Bhrigu Kumar Phukan, and on behalf of the central government it was signed by the then Union Home Secretary, RD Pradhan.

Clause 5 of the accord talks about the foreigner issue while Clause 6 of the Assam Accord asserts about constitutional safeguards for the Assamese people.

Clause 5 of Assam Accord lays out the following points in relation to the Foreigners Issue:

5.1       For purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, 1.1.1966 shall be the base date and year.

5.2       All persons who came to Assam prior to 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose name appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections, shall be regularized.

5.3      Foreigners who came to Assam after 1.1.1966 (inclusive) and up to 24th March, 1971, shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946 and the Foreigners’ (Tribunals) Order 1964.

5.4       Names of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the electoral rolls in force. Such persons will be required to register themselves before the Registration Officers of the respective districts in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939.

5.5       For this purpose, Government of India will undertake suitable strengthening of the governmental machinery.

5.6       On the expiry of a period of ten years following the date of detection, the names of all such persons which have been deleted from the electoral rolls shall be restored.

5.7       All persons who were expelled, earlier, but have since re-entered illegally into Assam, shall be expelled.

5.8       Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.

5.9       The Government will give due consideration to certain difficulties expressed by the AASU/AAGSP regarding the implementation of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983.

Clause 6 states that the, “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

It is to be noted that since 1985, a committee was formed for the first time in January 2019 to implement the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord by the BJP government. A nine-member panel was set up for its implementation, but it was aborted after its fifth member – former Union tourism secretary MP Bezbaruah - refused to be part of the panel in the wake of the widespread protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.  Later in July 2019, a 13-member high-level committee comprising eminent personalities of Assam was formed to examine the effectiveness of actions taken since 1985 to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

Speaking about the matter of Clause 6, on December 14, 2019 Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted, “I and my Cabinet colleagues met members of the Clause 6 committee and urged them to complete their report as soon as possible. Chairman of the committee assured that they will submit the report within a month.”

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