A year after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by the Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said that the rules governing the Act are still “under preparation”. Without the rules being notified, the Act remains ineffective.
This is the first official response from the MHA on the rules of the contentious Act that saw vociferous protests and riots from December 2019 till early March this year. As many as 83 persons were killed in various incidents in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Delhi.
The MHA’s response came in reply to a question filed by The Hindu under the Right to Information Act (RTI) seeking information on the status of the framing the rules of the CAA.
B.C. Joshi, Director (Citizenship), Foreigners Division, said in the RTI reply that “it is to inform that the rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 are under preparation”.
The RTI reply also added that “this office has not sent any letter regarding CAA to the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation in the month of August, 2020. You are requested to provide specific details of the sought information so that this office can locate/identify the same”.
The Hinduhad reported on July 20 that the MHA was yet to inform the Parliament regarding the delay in framing of rules, to be done if the rules are not framed within six months of the legislation being passed by the Parliament. Following the report, the MHA sent a letter to the Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation seeking three months extension, which expired in November. It is not clear if the MHA sought another extension.
As per the Manual on Parliamentary Work, in case the Ministries/Departments are not able to frame the rules within the prescribed period of six months, “they should seek extension of time from the Committee on Subordinate Legislation stating reasons for such extension” which cannot be more than for a period of three months at a time.
The CAA was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019 and by the Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019 and assented by the President of India on December 12 the same year. The MHA issued a notification later that the provisions of the Act would come into force from January 10, 2020.
The CAA provides citizenship on the basis of religion to six undocumented non-Muslim communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
The Act says that all legal proceedings against them for illegally entering into the country or cases for obtaining citizenship through fraudulent means will be closed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend a virtual summit with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on December 17 and is also expected to attend the 50th Independence Day celebrations of the neighbouring country next year . The Bangladesh PM had said in an interview earlier this year that CAA was “not necessary”.
Though the rules have not been framed, senior government officials have earlier said that the entire exercise would be online and was expected to ask applicants for “proof of religion”.
The officials said that the rules are likely to seek documents from applicants that they entered India before December 31, 2014 and that they belong to the six religions exempted under the Act.
Earlier, the Assam government had requested the MHA to impose a three-month time limit to apply under the CAA and not keep it “open ended”.
Many Opposition members had raised objections on how it would be proved if an applicant had indeed been persecuted on religious grounds in neighbouring countries.
The provisions of the Act will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP). Later, Manipur was added to the list of exempted States. This means that those “illegal” migrants who will be deemed Indian citizens through the Act will not be able to settle down in the exempted areas.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kailash Vijayvargiya told reporters in West Bengal that the CAA was likely to be implemented from January-February 2021 in West Bengal.