NRC & CAA
National Register of Citizens
- The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the register containing names of Indian citizens.
- NRC was prepared first in 1951 after the conduct of the Census of 1951.
- It is being updated and that too only in Assam.
- Now, it is not linked to census but one has to link oneself to a family member whose name had appeared either in the NRC of 1951, or to any of the state’s electoral rolls prepared till midnight of 24th march 1971.
- If the applicant’s name is not on any of these lists, he can produce any of the 12 other documents dated up to March 24, 1971.
The Assam Accord:
- Popular movements between 1979 and 1985 against undocumented immigrants in Assam led to the Assam Accord.
- The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
- The Accord agreed that all those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
- Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
- However, the provisions in the Assam accord were not implemented for a long time.
- Finally the Supreme Court, which is supervising the entire process, set a hard deadline of July 31, 2019 for the final NRC. Deadline was extended to August 31st 2019 later.
- The final draft of NRC was released in August 2019 which excluded 19 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam.
- Each excluded person can file an appeal in Foreigners Tribunals.
- The appellant then has the option of approaching the High Court and Supreme Court.
- The foreigners tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies, unique to Assam, to determine if a person staying illegally is a “foreigner” or not.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
- Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.
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 (Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram).
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?
- The U.S. State Department has released its annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report, a survey of the state of religious freedom across the world, submitted to the U.S. Congress.
- The country report for India, which looks back on the developments in 2019, takes note of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens.
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