The Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 11 after a heated debate in the Upper House.
The Bill was passed with 125 votes in favour and 105 votes against the Bill.
Once the Bill was given the President of India Ram Nath Kovind’s assent on December 12, it officially became an Act.
Who are illegal migrants?
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, illegal migrants cannot get citizenship of India. The people, who have entered India without valid travel documents like passports and visas or have come to India with valid documents but stay here longer than the period mentioned therein, are considered as illegal migrants under this law.
Currently, illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to apply for citizenship under the Forginers Act and the Passport Act.
What is Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019?
- The Act, as the name suggests, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, the law that lays out the rules for Indian citizenship.
- This legislation specifically exempts members of the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before December 31, 2014.
- At present, it is mandatory for a person to stay in India for at least 11 years to get citizenship of India.
- The act will reduce this period to six years. It will enable people to apply for Indian citizenship from these communities in six years.
- It will make some amendments to the Citizenship Act 1955 to provide legal aid for citizenship and terminate the status of Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) for violating provisions of this law and other laws that are in force.
- While introducing the Bill in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the amendment law shall not apply to the areas under the sixth scheduled of the Indian constitution (this enables the establishment of autonomous district councils in certain districts in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura) and in those places where the Inner Line Permit system are in force (this system regulates entry and movement of outsiders into this region. Currently this system is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland). The minister also announced on the floor of the House that Manipur has been brought under the Inner Line Permit system.
Inner Line Permit
- Inner Line permits exist (this is governed by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and are applicable in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. The movement of outsiders to the state is regulated by this system).
- The Home Minister also granted the permission to bring the state of Manipur within the Inner Line Permit system, a long-standing demand of its residents.
Why opposition parties disagree?
- The biggest concern of the opposition parties is that it specifically targeted the Muslim community. Opposition parties said that this is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which speaks of the right to equality.
- In the North East, additionally, the bill brings with it the fear of demographic change, with local politicians anticipating a large influx of people from Bangladesh.