Union Home Minister Amit Shah is set to table the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday (December 9) despite strong protests from Opposition political parties and several North East-based groups. The Bill seeks to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act and grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan escaping religious persecution in these countries.
According to the Lok Sabha's List of Business for Monday, Shah will introduce the Bill in the afternoon and the Bill will be taken up for discussion and passage in the Lower House of Parliament later in the day.
According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019, refugees belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014, facing religious persecution there will be given Indian citizenship and will not be treated as illegal immigrants by the Indian government.
In order to keep things under control in Northeast, where a large section of people are of the view that the CAB will disturb the demography of the region, some provisions have been made in the Bill which will make it unapplicable in the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime areas and those tribal regions of Northeast that are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
"In Citizenship Act, in Section 2 in sub-section (i), in clause (b) the following proviso shall be inserted namely:- "provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December 2014 and who has been exempted by the central government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 or any rule or order made there under shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act," the Bill said. The Bill added that such refugees will be given Indian citizenship after they have resided in India for five years (six years in CAB 2016), instead of 11 years earlier.
"On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him. Provided that such person shall not be disqualified for making application for citizenship under this section on the ground that the proceeding pending against him and the central government or authority specified by it in this behalf shall not reject his application on that ground if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of citizenship under section," said the Bill.
The Bill also states: "Provided further that the person who makes the application for citizenship under this section shall not be deprived of his rights and privileges to which he was entitled on the date of receipt of his application on the ground of making such application".
According to proposed Bill, the amendment will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and in the areas covered under The Inner Line, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. It is to be noted that the ILP regime is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
It may be recalled that the Bill was first introduced by the BJP-led NDA government in its previous tenure and it had passed the Lok Sabha test too but the government did not table the Bill in the Rajya Sabha due to strong protests in the Northeast. That Bill lapsed after the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.
The Congress has said that it will strongly oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as it is against the secular ethos and Constitution of India. The Shiv Sena, which recently came to power in Maharashtra after forging an alliance with the Congress and NCP is expected to support the Bill--