The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), is an amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 . It refers to the 1955 Act as the ‘principal Act’ and adds a proviso to redefine an ‘illegal migrant’. It states that persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, will not be treated as illegal migrants under this law.
The 1955 Citizenship Act defined an ‘illegal migrant’ as a foreign national who entered India without a valid passport or other necessary documents; or with a passport and necessary documents, who has remained in India beyond the permitted period of time.
After the CAA was passed earlier this month (December 2019), there have been nationwide protests against this amendment.
How does the CAA grant Indian citizenship to specified sections of migrants?
Indian citizenship, the 1955 Act states, can be acquired through birth, descent, registration, ‘naturalisation’, and the incorporation of a foreign territory into India (Sections 3-7, the Citizenship Act, 1955).
The CAA inserts clause 6B in Section 6 of the Citizenship Act to say that the central government, or an authority specified by it, can grant a certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
These applications will be considered along with ‘prescribed conditions and restrictions’ and a person granted a certificate of registration or naturalisation shall be deemed an Indian citizen from the date of their entry in India. Any proceedings pending against a person under this Section with respect to illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated.
How long do such migrants have to be resident in India to acquire citizenship under the CAA?
The 1955 Act, in its Third Schedule, states that to be ‘naturalised’ as an Indian citizen, an applicant must be an Indian resident, in service to the government of India, or partly both, during the 12 months immediately before the date of application. And that preceding these 12 months, applicants must have resided in India or been in service to the government of India, or partly both, for a period of at least 11 years.
The recent amendment reduces this time period from 11 to five years – for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Which regions of India does the CAA not apply to?
The CAA does not apply to “tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
What does the CAA say about Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders?
The CAA stipulates that if an OCI card holder violates any provision of the Citizenship Act, or any other law in force, their OCI registration shall be cancelled.
A foreign national can acquire OCI registration by marrying a citizen of India, or an OCI card holder, subject to the rules under this Section (Section 7, 1 (d) of the 1955 Citizenship Act). The CAA adds that in case such a marriage is dissolved, the OCI registration shall not be cancelled unless the card holder has been given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.
Focus and Factoids by Oorna Raut.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
12 Dec, 2019