Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
How is citizenship acquired in India?
- In India, citizenship is regulated by the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The Act specifies that citizenship may be acquired in India through five methods – by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalisation (extended residence in India), and by incorporation of territory into India.
Can illegal migrants acquire citizenship?
- An illegal migrant is prohibited from acquiring Indian citizenship.
- An illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents, like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
- Illegal migrants may be imprisoned or deported under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.
How does the 2019 Act seek to change the criteria for determining citizenship?
- The Act makes it clear that immigrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi communities from the Muslim-majority nations (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) will not be treated as illegal.
- They will also be eligible to get naturalised citizenship.
- One of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization under the 1955 Act is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
- The amendment act relaxes this 11-year requirement to five years for persons belonging to these six religions from these three countries.
- They will also no longer be deported or jailed under the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act of 1920.
- The cut-off date for citizenship is December 31, 2014 which means the applicant should have entered India on or before that date.
Rationale of the Law
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons in the amendment Act (SoR) states that India has had historic migration of people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and these countries have a state religion, which has resulted in religious persecution of minority groups.
Are the provisions of the Act applicable across the country?
- The Act clarifies that the amendments will not apply to certain areas. These are:
- the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.
- the states regulated by the “Inner Line” permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873.
- This means that those “illegal” migrants who will be deemed Indian citizens through the Act will not be able to settle down in the exempted areas.
How does the Act change the regulations for Overseas Citizens of India?
- The Act also amends the provisions on registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI).
- OCI cardholders are foreigners who are persons of Indian origin.
- At present, the government may cancel a person’s OCI registration on various grounds specified in the 1955 Act.
- The 2019 amendment adds another ground for cancelling OCI registration — violation of any law notified by the central government.
Why in News?
- A year after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by the Lok Sabha, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said that the rules governing the Act are still “under preparation”. Without the rules being notified, the Act remains ineffective.
Inner Line Permit
- The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official travel document that allows Indian citizens to stay in an area under the ILP system.
- The document is currently required by visitors to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- The ILP is issued by the concerned state government. The permits issued are mostly of different kinds, provided separately for tourists, tenants and for other purposes.
- The main objective of the ILP system is to prevent settlement of other Indian nationals in the notified states in order to protect the indigenous population. It also offers protection for the locals with regards to lands, jobs and other facilities.
History of ILP
- Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas.
- This was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
- In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”. This was to address local concerns about protecting the interests of the indigenous people from outsiders belonging to other Indian states.
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