About Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016:
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, and referred to a parliamentary committee.
- It will make changes to the existing Citizenship Act 1955.
- The Bill after been discussed in the Lok Sabha, was referred to a joint select committee in August 2016.
- Presently the government plans to change the definition of illegal migrants in the 2016 bill.
- The main objective is to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian who have entered the country without legal documentation or whose documents have expired.
- However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.
- The idea is to make them eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
- The main aim is to help persons of Indian origin, including those from these minority communities in the three countries, who are unable to produce proof of their Indian origin while applying for citizenship by registration.
- But naturalisation is their only means of acquiring citizenship, the government wants to reduce the residency requirement from 12 to seven years.
- The long waiting period in the present law would deny them “opportunities and advantages” that accrue to citizens, even though they are likely to stay in India permanently.
- The proposed amendment is that it enables cancellation of the registration of any Overseas Citizen of India cardholder for violation of Indian law.
- The bill seeks to reduce the number of continuous years of stay in India needed to obtain citizenship by naturalisation from 11 to 6 years.
Who are illegal immigrants?
- According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents. Or, a person who stays beyond the visa permit.
What was the controversy?
- If the Bill is passed, these individuals will be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation.
- Presently as per law citizenship by naturalisation requires applicants to have stayed in the country for 11 years of the previous 14 years, and throughout the last 12 months.
- The proposed amendment reduces the residency requirement to six years, besides the last 12 months.
- Opposition to the Bill is strong in Assam, where there is fear that non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh will become Indian citizens.
- The Bill is also seen as discriminatory as it does not cover Muslim sects fleeing persecution from dominant sections in these countries.
- States sharing borders with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are likely to be affected.
Why in news?
- The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on 3rd July 2018 demanded immediate withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
- They were claiming that it was unconstitutional as it seeks to grant Indian citizenship only on the basis of religion.
- This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.
- It was also criticised that it would nullify the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is currently under way in Assam.