Budget session the only window to ensure implementation of CAA ahead of 2024 polls

The rules for the Citizenship Act would have to be notified by January 31, 2024, for the Act to be implemented before the general elections

December 29, 2023 10:23 pm | Updated December 30, 2023 07:10 am IST

Citizens hold a placard during a protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), in New Delhi. File

Citizens hold a placard during a protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

There is a one-month window for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to be implemented before the next Budget session, which is expected to start on February 1, 2024, a senior government official said on December 29. Once the model code of conduct kicks in, legislative work such as notifying the rules of CAA by publishing them in the official gazette cannot take place and per norms, all rules are to be mandatorily tabled before the Parliament.

“The CAA rules will have to be notified before January 31, 2024, if the legislation has to be implemented before the 2024 general elections. Since a copy of the rules has to be presented to the Parliament, the Budget session is the only available window before the current Lok Sabha lapses,” said the official.

The Winter session of Parliament, which concluded on December 21, was the last working session of the current Lok Sabha to clear key legislative work.

The CAA that fast-tracks citizenship to six undocumented non-Muslim communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian and Jain — from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, but is yet to be implemented. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought nine extensions from a parliamentary committee to frame rules that will govern the Act, without which the Act is ineffective.

The Assam conundrum

CAA is key to the peace accord signed with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on Friday. Several groups in Assam have opposed the implementation of CAA as it violates the provision of the 1985 Assam Accord that called for “detection and deportation” of all persons who entered the State from Bangladesh post March 24, 1971. The Assam government has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a re-verification of NRC as it suspects the draft to be erroneous.

On Friday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters, “There is a demand across Assam to re-do the NRC, the review petition is pending in Supreme Court. In the memorandum of settlement (with ULFA) signed today, we have said that after SC verdict, Central government will look at the matter afresh.”

The ULFA, which was born out of the anti-foreigners movement during the Assam Agitation in 1979 following the influx of several Bengali-speaking people from neighbouring Bangladesh, said on Friday that “CAA is subjudice, it should not be implemented in Assam.”

CAA is intrinsically linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which was compiled in Assam in 2019 on the directions of the Supreme Court. As many as 19 lakh people out of 3.29 crore applicants were excluded from Assam’s NRC that was published on August 31 the same year.

The CAA will benefit around six lakh — primarily Bengali-speaking — Hindus who have been excluded from NRC by giving them an opportunity to sign up as Indian citizens. It will also shield them from any legal cases.

Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted on multiple occasions, as latest as December 26 in Kolkata, that “no one can stop” the implementation of the Act.

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