Four years on, CAA awaits political nod for its implementation

The law that fast-tracks citizenship to six undocumented non-Muslim communities from neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh was passed by Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019; Home Ministry taken many extensions to frame rules

Updated - December 10, 2023 08:39 am IST

Published - December 09, 2023 10:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file photo of protests against CAA and NRC at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.

A file photo of protests against CAA and NRC at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Four years after the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 was passed by Parliament, the legislation is yet to be implemented despite the administrative framework in place as it awaits political nod from the BJP-led Union government.

After the law 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 was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought nine extensions from a parliamentary committee to frame rules that will govern the Act.

In a Right to Information (RTI) reply to The Hindu, the Ministry denied information regarding the reasons it stated before the parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation to seek an extension for framing the rules. It said that the public authority was not mandated to provide explanations.

Without the rules being notified, the Act cannot be implemented. The latest extension granted by the parliamentary panel on subordinate legislation to frame the rules is till January 9, 2024 in Lok Sabha and March 30, 2024 in Rajya Sabha, as stated by Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni at a public event in South 24 Parganas, West Bengal last month.

‘Rules ready’

A Ministry official said, on the condition of anonymity, that rules were ready and the online portal was also in place. The entire process will be online and the applicants will have to declare the year when they entered India without travel documents. It is to be noted that CAA benefits undocumented minorities from the three countries.

Protests around CAA and the National Population Register (NPR) scheduled to be updated in 2020 but indefinitely delayed initially due to COVID-19, which is a first step towards the creation of National Register of Citizens (NRC), led to violent street protests and killing of several people across the country. Between December 2019 and March 2020, as many as 83 persons were killed in police firing and riots in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Delhi after the CAA was passed.

Also Read | Centre seeks six more months to frame Citizenship Amendment Act rules

Though Union Home Minister Amit Shah asserted at a public meeting on November 30 in Kolkata that “no one can stop” the implementation of the Act, he has in the past attributed the delay to the pandemic and the vaccination drive, the conditions that no longer are valid. The Matua community in West Bengal is one of the many potential beneficiaries of CAAand are said to be upset with the delay in framing of the rules.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on November 30, 2022, the MHA said that CAA only makes eligible a class of foreigners who had taken shelter in India on or before December 31, 2014 due to persecution faced by them in three specified countries on grounds of their religion. “It is submitted that CAA does not encourage any future influx of foreigners into India as it applies to past events and has no application in future,” the affidavit said.

Also Read | Citizenship Amendment Act was, is, and will be a reality: Amit Shah

It added that the Central government has shared with the Government of Bangladesh a draft agreement to be entered into between the two countries on ‘Nationality verification and Return of Indian and Bangladeshi nationals’. The agreement once finalised and signed will streamline the process of nationality verification and is expected to facilitate the return of illegal migrants from each other’s territory, it said.

Several groups in Assam have opposed the 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 Supreme Court-monitored Assam’s National Register Citizens (NRC) published on August 31 2019, which excluded 19 lakh of the 3.4 crore applicants, was a fallout of the Assam Accord. The final NRC is yet to be implemented in Assam, the only State to have compiled such a register, as rejection slips to those excluded have not been issued by the authorities.

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