Union Home Minister Amit Shah will introduce the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha on December 9.
The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by seeking to grant citizenship to undocumented and illegal non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
The Lok Sabha Speaker has allowed the members to submit amendments to the Bill till 10 a.m. on December 9. A copy of the Bill was circulated to all parliamentarians last week, after the Cabinet gave a go-ahead on December 4. If the Bill is passed, it will be the first time that citizenship will be provided on the basis of religion.
Several groups in Assam and other Northeast States are protesting against the legislation as it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord 1985, according to which all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion who entered India after March 24, 1971 were to be detected and deported.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, published on August 31, was updated as per the accord. More than 19 lakh persons, out of the total 3.29 crore applicants, were excluded from the final NRC.
The Bill proposes that all such migrants will be eligible for citizenship if they came to India before December 31, 2014 and all pending legal cases pertaining to citizenship-related matters against them will stand abated.
The Bill says that the amendments if approved will not apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution and States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP). Citizens of other States require ILP to visit the three States as per Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said that “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 has been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek sheIter and continued to stay in India even If their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents.”
The Bill says the six non-Muslim communities “shall not be treated as illegal migrant” for violating provisions under Passport Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946 that pertains to foreigners entering and staying in India illegally.
The rules to govern the Bill shall be framed later by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Bill reduces the mandatory requirement of continuous stay in India from 12 years to five years for “many persons of Indian origin including persons belonging to the minority community from the neighbouring countries” who are unable to produce proof of their Indian origin and are forced to apply for citizenship by naturalisation under Section 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.