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Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019

Citizenship as the name defines is the relationship between individuals and state. A citizen of a state is a person who enjoys full civil and political rights. It begins and ends with the state and law and is thus about the state, not people. Citizenship carries with it certain advantages conferred by the Constitution.

The Constitution does not lay down a permanent or comprehensive provision relating to citizenship in India but given in Article 5 to 11, details of various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship. Keeping the details of amendment of Citizenship Act 1955, in this paper an attempt is made to present the detailed study of meaning of Citizenship, what is the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019? , Does it violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution?

Is it discriminatory?, Why the Muslims are against it?, Why Assam protested against it?, What is the centre logic behind the act?, How much of North East does the Bill cover?, Isn't it the same like the NRC (National Register for Citizens) so as to have an idea what the bill is all about.

The Preamble of the Constitution declares India to be a " Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic". Secularism means a State which does not recognise any religion as a state religion. It treats all religions equally. The concept of secularism was already implicit in the Constitution, " liberty of ......belief, faith and worship". Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution guarantee to every person the freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice and propagate religion.

In St Xavier College vs State of Gujarat (AIR 1974 SC 1389), the supreme court has said, " although the words ' secular state' are not expressly mentioned in the Constitution but there can be no doubt that Constitution wanted to establish such a State" and accordingly Articles 25 to 28 have been included in the Constitution.

Secularism as a basic structure in the Preamble has been reiterated by the apex court that is the Supreme Court in SR Bommai vs Union of India (1994) case.

Recently our Honourable Hone Minister Mr Amit Shah addressed about implementing a National Register of Citizens or NRC in West Bengal and also in other states to get rid off illegal migrants presented in our country. He assured that Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian refugees will not be forced to leave India and will get Citizenship of India.

These words sparked an immediate backlash as Mr Shah had evidently omitted one religious community i.e. Muslims from his statement. It was criticized and argued for that this bill undermines secularism as mentioned in the Preamble of our Constitution and also it violates Article 14 which states, " The State shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India".

Meaning of Citizenship:
The population of State is divided into two classes- Citizens and Aliens. A citizen of a state is a person who enjoys full civil and political rights. Citizenship signifies the relationship between individuals and state. It begins and ends with the state and law, and is thus about the state, not people. Citizenship is an idea of exclusion as it excludes non- citizens. Citizens are different from aliens who do not enjoy all these rights. Citizenship carries with it certain advantages conferred by the Constitution.

Constitutional provisions:
The Constitution does not lay down a permanent or comprehensive provision relating to citizenship in India. Part 2 of the Constitution simply describes classes of persons who would be deemed to be the citizens of India at the commencement of the Constitution, the 26th January, 1950, and leaves the entire law of the Citizenship to be regulated by law made by parliament. In exercise of its power the parliament has enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The following persons under Article 5-8 of the Constitution of India shall become citizens of India at the commencement of the Constitution:
    • Citizenship by domicile (Article 5).
    • Citizenship of emigrants from Pakistan (Article 6).
    • Citizenship of migrants to Pakistan (Article 7).
    • Citizenship of Indians abroad (Article 8).
The definition of Citizenship is mentioned under Articles 5-11 of the Constitution of India. Citizenship is in the Union List under the Constitution and thus under the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. What is the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019?:
  • As the name suggests, it makes an amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955, the umbrella law that sets out the elements of Indian Citizenship.
  • According to the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019), Hindus, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Parsi migrants who has entered India illegally that is, without a visa on or before December 31, 2014 from the Muslim- majority countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and have stayed in the country for 5 years, are eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship.
  • These individuals are made eligible for naturalization as Indian citizens, and furthermore, the normal precondition for naturalization having spent 12 years in the country is halved to 6 years.
  • The Act also proposes to incorporate a sub- section (d) to Section 7, providing for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.
  • Therefore the Citizenship Amendment Act does two things:
    • It shields a set of individuals from being declared illegal migrants (and, by extension, shields them from detention or deportation); and
    • It creates a fast track to Citizenship for these individuals.
Does the Bill violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution?:
  • The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.
  • Article 14 guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners. It only permits law to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose.
  • The problem, of course, is that it does so on an explicitly communal basis : it categorically excludes Muslims from its ambit.
  • It seeks to legally establish Muslims as second class citizens of India by providing preferential treatment to other groups. And yet the government maintains that it does not discriminate or violate the right to equality.
  • The fact remains that by dividing (alleged) migrants into Muslims (but also, as we see below, Jews and atheists) and non- muslims, the Citizenship Amendment Bill explicitly and blatantly, seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long- standing, secular constitutional ethos.
Is it discriminatory?:
  • The President gave his assent to the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 on December 12, 2019 a day after it was passed by the Rajya Sabha on December 11, 2019.
  • Re- introduction of the Bill is challenge to the constitutional values such as secularism as mentioned in Preamble of the Constitution and equality to all as enshrined in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
  • The CAA is closely linked to plans for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). A nationwide NRC will replicate the flaws of the Assam NRC on a much larger scale.
  • The discrimination CAA will protect some but only some based on their religion which is against the ethos of Indian Constitution.

Why is Assam angry about it?
  • Among the states in the northeast, the outrage and protests against CAA has been the most intense in Assam. While a chunk of these states have been exempted from the legislation, CAA overs a large part of Assam.
  • Though this legislation covers refugees from 3 countries, the indigenous people of 3 countries, the indigenous people of Assam fear it will primarily benefit illegal Bengali Hindu Migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in large numbers across the state.
  • The Assamese fear that if Citizenship is granted to Bangla-speaking Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh, they will outnumber Assamese-speaking people in the State. Unlike in the rest of India, where people are questioning the exclusion of Muslims, the Assamese don't want immigrants of any religion whether Hindu or Muslim.

What is centre logic behind the Bill?
Centre says these minority groups have come escaping persecution in Muslim-majority nations. However, the logic is not consistent. The Bill does not protect all religious minorities, nor does it apply to all neighbours.
  • The Ahmedia Muslim sect and even Shias face discrimination against in Pakistan.
  • Rohingya Muslims and Hindus face persecution in neighbouring Myanmar and Hindu and Christian Tamils in neighbouring Sri Lanka.
  • The government responds that Muslims can seek refuge in Islamic Nations, but has not answered the other questions.

How much North East does the Bill cover?:
CAA won't apply to areas under the sixth schedule of the Constitution- which deals with autonomous tribal dominated regions in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The Bill will also not apply to states that have the inner- line permit regime (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram).

Isn't it the same like the NRC?
The National Register of Citizens or NRC that we saw in Assam targeted illegal immigrants. A person had to prove that either they, or their ancestors were in Assam on or before March 24, 1971. NRC which may be extended to the rest of the country, is not based on religion unlike CAA.

Discrimination is often at the root of identity related tensions. Such tensions have a potential to development crisis that would lead to conflict, to atrocity crimes including genocide and protests are made against it. Public property gets damaged. There should be an effort to promote and protect the rights of minorities and it should be multidimensional.

Hence, before these instances develops into a broken window syndrome, there must be allayed as early as possible. There should be sense of developing an integrative humanistic framework for potential abuse and all be treated equally.

  • Constitutional Law of India � Dr JN Pandey
  • The Hindu
  • The Economic Times
  • The Times Of India

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