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Constitutionality Of The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was introduced by Home-Minister of India on 9th December 2019 in 17th Lok Sabha and was passed on 10th December 2019, with 311 votes in favour and 80 votes against the Bill. It was passed in Rajya Sabha on 11th December 2019 with 125 votes in favour and 105 votes against the Bill.

It amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a pathway to Indian citizenship for prosecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians, and arrived in India before the end of December 2014.[1] The law does not allow Muslims from those countries, all of which are Muslim- majority countries.[2]

What Is Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019?

  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 proposes granting Indian citizenship to the prosecuted minorities such as Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis fleeing Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.[3]
  • The legislation is applicable to groups who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.[4]
  • The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.[5]

Exceptions:
  • The bill does not apply to those states that are listed under sixth schedule of Indian Constitution. The tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura are listed in the sixth schedule.
  • The bill does not apply to the states under the Inner Line Permit. Those states are Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.

Inner Permit Line:
Inner Permit Line (IPL) is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into protected area for a limited period of time. It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those states to obtain a permit for entering into the protected states.

Why It Is Controversial?
The controversy against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 started after it was introduced in Lok Sabha.

The first issue raised was that the Bill violates Article 14. Article 14 of Indian Constitution says that all the citizens as well as non-citizens of India are equal before law and no discrimination will be done on base of caste, race, sex and religion. But this Bill does not allow citizenship to those illegal Muslims migrants who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

So on this Government replied that it do not violate Article 14 as it protects the minorities those are being prosecuted in their own countries. This Bill protects all minorities not only Hindus, Sikhs or Buddhists, It would violate Article 14 if it was made for a particular minority, they added. Government also said that Muslims are not added in the list because those countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh) have their own state religion mentioned in their constitution and that is Islam. Home Minister Amit Shah in his speech in Lok Sabha also added that the changes made on the basis of reasonable classification does not violate Article 14.

Another issue raised was by the Northern-Eastern states of India, they believe that it will leads to a greater influx of illegal migrants in their states. Although their are exceptions for Northern-Eastern states, they raised the question that where will the migrants coming from Bangladesh go? In the NRC report it was found that there were 19 lakhs of illegal migrants in Assam and out of them 14 lakhs were Hindus. So they said that they do not want more illegal migrants of whichever religion they are as Northern-eastern states wanted to protect their culture. They fear of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture. So there were many protests especially in Assam after the amendment was done.

Another issues raised by opposition was that Hindu migrants coming from Sri Lanka, Medhasis from Nepal and Buddhists from Tibet should also be given citizenship under this Bill as they are living in camps since many years. So Government replied that they will not leave any prosecuted minority and they will make law on these issues also.

Opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 Shaheen Bagh protests began on 15th December 2019 and lasted until 24th March 2020. The protest was led by Muslim women who blocked the major road at Shaheen Bagh. Their main slogan was Tumhari lathi se tej Humari awaaz.

Protestors also wanted to remove National Register of Citizens (NRC). Shaheen Bagh protest affected about one lakh vehicles daily adding hours to some journeys. The protest came to end because of lockdown on 23rd March 2020 due to COVID-19 outbreak, the remaining protestors were removed forcefully by the Delhi Police from the protest site.
This was all about the controversies and Shaheen Bagh protest opposing the Citizenship amendment act, 2019.

Other Key Points:
  1. The citizenship Act was made in 1955.
  2. It is mentioned in schedule 2, Article 5-11 in the Constitution of India.
  3. Before 2019 the Citizenship Act, 1955 is amended five times i.e. 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005 and 2015.
  4. The citizenship is to be given through naturalization  in citizenship amendment act, 2019.
  5. Indian Citizenship is given through 5 process i.e. By Birth, Descent, Registration, Incorporation and Naturalization process.
  6. Amendment done in 2019 is only done in order to protect minorities who belongs to Muslim majority countries.
End-Notes:
  1. Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, https://en.m.wikipedia.org.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.

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