The Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended several times and the Citizenship Amendment Bill was the latest amendment which was done to the act, before we go any further it is is important to understand the objective of the Citizenship act, 1955, this act was brought into operation to give title or confer a person the citizenship in India. A person is said to be a citizen of India if they were a resident of india during the commencement of the constitution, however due to further amendments there were extra clauses that were being introduced. This process of conferring the citizenship is governed by part II of the Indian Constitution. This act gives the conditions that one has to fulfill to become a citizen of India, i.e, by birth, by registration or by naturalization (it is the process where a foreign citizen attains national citizenship through a particular process). Therefore according to the present law citizenship is given to those people who are either born in India or have resided in India for a minimum of 11 years.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 , was passed by the parliament of India on December 11, 2019. This bill amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by not giving citizenship to illegal immigrants who are Sikhs, Jains ,Buddhists ,Hindus ,Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have entered India after December 31, 2014 , and it exempts tribal areas in Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya stated under the sixth schedule of the Constitution from the above stated clause. This Bill further reduces the period six to five years from the attaining citizenship through naturalization. This legislation applies to the people who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”. The objective of this Bill is to protect such people from legal proceedings of illegal migration. This Bill has been highly criticised for some of its clauses which were termed as discriminatory which has been discussed further. Many people confuse it with the NRC (National Register of Citizen) in Assam where they had to prove that their ancestors were staying in India on or before March 24, 1971, otherwise they were considered as illegal immigrants, however this amendment aimed to protect them.
The consequences of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 are stated as follows:
- The bill states that migrants who fulfill four conditions will not be termed as illegal migrants, and the conditions which were laid were on the basis of caste and religion which is clearly violating Article 14 of the Constitution by denying them the Right to Equality. It is clearly stated in Article 14 that it guarantees equality to all persons, including citizens and foreigners, but on the other side it is discriminating them by providing differential treatment on the basis of their country of origin, religion, date of entry into India, and place of residence in India.
- There is alot of criticism when discrimination is being done on the basis of date of entry into India. Why is there discriminatory treatment whether they entered into India before 31 december , 2014 or not.
- It doesn’t take into consideration, that what if the there were illegal migrants in the areas that have been excluded as stated in the sixth schedule of the Constitution, It is highly unclear why the Inner Line areas have also been excluded, if there is an illegal migrant in the above excluded areas wouldn’t he be subjected to the same restrictions as others?.
- The fourth consequence is that it does not take into account all religious minorities that have faces religious persecution and have illegally migrated to India. It is doubtful why illegal migrants from only six specified religious minorities have been included in the Bill.
In India the parliament has the supreme power to make laws, but the legislations made with respect to citizenship were highly considered to be discriminatory, but also benefited some on the other side. In my opinion there is a loophole to everything, nothing is perfect, but if we start making the imperfections perfect it can lead to societal well-being and happiness. Therefore, the parliament thought it was doing good to the nation with the above amendment but more bad (discrimination and chaos) has been done than good. Hence it is still not too late to make a change.