The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA): Meaning, Key Features, and Objectives
India is a secular, sovereign and peace-loving country. Perhaps it is the only country in the world that has justified the slogan of 'Unity in diversity'. Perhaps this is why citizens of many countries want Indian citizenship.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 has been passed by the Lok Sabha on 9th December 2019. This bill is signed by the President on 12 December 2019 that is why it has become as act now. Let us know in this article; what is this act, what are its features and Why is it opposed by some political parties?
What is Citizenship Amendment Act, (CAA) 2019?
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 seeks to provide Indian citizenship to illegal refugees from 6 communities coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
These 6 communities include; Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Jain, and Parsi.
Worth to mention that Illegal migrants can be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. These two Acts empower the central government to check the entry, exit and residence of foreigners within India.
What is the cut-off date for Indian Citizenship?
The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014, which means the applicant should have intruded into India on or before this date.
The intruders are assumed to those who were “forced or compelled to take shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of their religion” in their native country.
What does the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955 say?
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 describes 5 conditions for obtaining citizenship of India, such as
1. Citizenship by Birth
2. Citizenship by Descent
3. Citizenship by Registration
4. Citizenship by Naturalization
5. Citizenship by incorporation of territory
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 1955 made it mandatory for a person to stay in India for at least 11 years to acquire citizenship naturally, which was later reduced to 6 years, but in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, this period reduced to 5 years.
Key Features of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
1. Under the Citizenship Act 1955, a person may be given an OCI card, if he is of Indian origin (e.g., a former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin. Now the Act of 2019 gives the facility to OCI cardholder to travel in India, work, and study in the country.
2. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 says that the citizenship of OCI cardholders can be cancelled on 5 grounds;
a. Showing disaffection to the Constitution of India
b. Registration through fraud
c. Engaging with the enemy during war.
d. Damaging the sovereignty of India
e. Sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more within five years of registration as OCI.
But the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 added one more ground of the cancellation i.e.if the OCI has violated any law that is in force in the country.
3. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 says that on acquiring citizenship:
(a). Such persons shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry (on or before December 31, 2014) into India, and
(b). All legal proceedings against illegal migrants related to their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.
However, the bill will not give these benefits to the illegal migrants of tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura.
4. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2016 provided that these illegal migrants of (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan must stay at least 6 years in India before applying for Indian citizenship through naturalisation.
But the current Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 would reduce this period to 5 years from 6 years.
Why this bill is opposed?
Basically this bill is opposed because it does not give citizenship to illegal migrants of muslim community from these 3 countries. Another reason behind its criticism is that it violates the provisions of article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
So these were some provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 which gives Indian citizenship to illegal migrants of 3 countries.
However, some people are arguing that this amendment is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution as it opposes discrimination with anyone based only on caste, religion, sex, and place, etc. Hopefully, the government will take the right decision after listening to all sections of the country.