Parliament Passes Citizenship Amendment Bill [Read Bill]

Manu Sebastian

11 Dec 2019 3:22 PM GMT

  • Parliament Passes Citizenship Amendment Bill [Read Bill]

    After a stormy debate which lasted over eight hours, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955.The Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu declared the bill cleared with 125 Ayes and 105 Noes.The Lok Sabha had cleared the Bill on Monday.The Bill seeks to relax conditions for acquiring citizenship for non-Muslim migrants...

    After a stormy debate which lasted over eight hours, the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955.

    The Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu declared the bill cleared with 125   Ayes and   105   Noes.

    The Lok Sabha had cleared the Bill on Monday.

    The Bill seeks to relax conditions for acquiring citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

    As per the Bill, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains and Christians who migrated to India without travel documents from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014 will not be regarded as illegal migrants. This is proposed to be done by inserting a new proviso to Section 2(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act 1955. The present Citizenship Act does not recognize the claims of illegal migrants for citizenship.

    The Bill also proposes to relax the condition for acquisition of citizenship by naturalization for non-Muslim migrants from these countries. As per the existing law, a person should be a resident in India for the period of 12 months immediately preceding the date of application, and also should have been residing in India for 11 out of the 14 years preceding the said period of 12 months.

    This Bill proposes to make non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship by naturalization if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of existing eleven years.

    This is proposed citing the reason that religious minorities in these countries have been fleeing to India due to fear of persecution.

    "The Constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day to day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion have been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents", the "Statement of Objects and Reasons" of the Bill said.

    Parts of North Eastern Regions excluded

    A significant feature of the Bill is that the relaxations for citizenship by naturalization will not be applicable to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the area covered under "The Inner Line" notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873.

    This exclusion is given apparently in view of the protests from North-Eastern states against the previous Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was cleared by the 16th Lok Sabha in January 2019. That bill had triggered violent protests in North-Eastern states on the ground that it will legitimize the stay of several illegal migrants, disturbing the local demographics.

    Rajya Sabha discussion

    In his introductory remarks, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the Bill was based on a promise made by BJP in its election manifesto. Since the people have given BJP the majority, the Bill has got democratic support. The Minister reiterated that Muslims who are Indian citizens have nothing to worry about the Bill.

    In his reply speech, Shah said that if the original period of 11 years is applied for naturalization, these categories of persons will have to wait till 2025. So the period has been reduced to 5 years for naturalization, Shah added.

    As the reason for exclusion of Rohingyas, Shah said that they do not come directly to India and that they go to Bangladesh and from there illegally infiltrate to India.

    The bill is for addressing the special problem of minorities in Islamic states bordering India, and hence Sri Lankan Tamils are not brought under it, Shah said. 

    Opposing the Bill, Congress MP Anand Sharma said that the Bill was an assault on the very foundation of the Constitution of India.

    "It hurts the soul of India. Its divisive, discriminatory. Its against the very preamble of the Constitution which speaks of equality and secularism".

    Seeking to refute the principal opposition party's claims, BJP MP J P Nadda referred to a statement made by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha in 2003, whereby he had urged the then deputy PM L K Advani to liberalize grant of citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who had fled to India fearing persecution. Therefore, the opposition of Congress is hypocritical, said Nadda.

    Trinamool Congress MP Derek O Brien equated the CAB with the Nazi citizenship laws brought in Germany in 1933-34. Referring to elections speeches and statements of the Prime Minister and Home Minister, Brien said that the CAB was closely linked with NRC project.

    "The CAB will be written in golden letters, as said by the PM. But where it will be written?. It will be written on the grave of the father of nation. Not the father of nation of India. But on the grave of Jinnah", the MP from West Bengal said.

    Former Union Minister and Senior Advocate P Chidambaram termed the Bill 'unconstitutional'.

    Indian citizenship is based on birth, descent and domicile. The CAB introduces an arbitrary concept of religion for grant of citizenship, said Chidambaram.

    "This Bill is to further the 'Hindutva Agenda' of the government", he said. 

    The Bill violates Article 14 on the grounds of unequal treatment, illegal classification and manifest arbitrariness. The inclusions and exclusions in the Bill are against common sense. What are the reasons for excluding Sri Lankan Tamils and Bhutanese Christians, he asked. He also sought to know why only religious persecution is covered and not persecution on the grounds of politics and linguistic reasons.

     RJD MP Professor Manoj Kumar Jha said that what cannot be morally wrong cannot be constitutionally correct. The Bill is morally wrong and constitutionally suspect, he said. He added that India was following Israel model with this.

    Congress MP and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said that the Bill gave a legal colour to the 'two-nation' theory.  In response to Nadda's reference to Manmohan Singh's speech, Sibal said that the then Deputy Minister L K Advani had favoured grant of benefits to all refugees alike, without any discrimination on religious grounds.

    "The bill is targeting a community without naming it. It is divisive and destabilize a polity. It weakens the foundation of our culture and ethos", he said. 

    PDP MP from Jammu and Kashmir Mir Mohammad Fayaz said that the Bill betrayed those Indian Muslims who preferred secular India over Pakistan.

    Bhupendra Yadav from BJP said that CPI(M) in 2012 had sought grant of citizenship for religious minorities from Bangladesh. Congress had also made similar demands in the past, he added.

    Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, responding to queries raised by Chidambaram and Sibal, said that all bills tabled by the government are vetted by the Law Ministry.

    "The Bill is constitutional, legal, is in the national interest and sub serves a larger humanitarian purpose", the Law Minister said.

     Click here for comprehensive compilation of updates from the RS discussion

     Click here for report about the Lok Sabha discussion on the bill

    Click here to download the bill

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