Explained: What is Citizenship Amendment Bill, does it violate Article 14

Shreya

New Delhi, Nov 18: The Winter Session of Parliament is set to witness a stormy sesion as the Modi government seeks to push through the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

Let us have a quick look at what the bill is about and why is it contentious?

What is Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 seeks to provide Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Christians from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after they have stayed in India for seven years. The bill is applicable to those who came to India before December 31, 2014.

To prove their citizenship, people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhism, Jain, Parsi and Christian religions from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan will have to prove they belonged to any of the three countries and were persecuted on various grounds.

What was in the Citizenship Act, 1955

The Citizenship Act in 1955, defines the concept of Indian citizenship and lists out ways to acquire the same, explicitly denying citizenship to all undocumented migrants

An illegal migrant, the Act states, "is a foreigner who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time"

It may be recalled that in 2015 and 2016, the government exempted specified groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts.

Does it violate Article 14

The Bill, critics say, goes against Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality. The bill seeks to give citizenship on the basis of religion.

The protection of Article 14 applies equally to both citizens and foreigners.

It is also opined that the bill will hurt the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC), which defines all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion.

What happened with the bill

The Citizenship bill is a key BJP plank which is aimed at granting nationality to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries.

The Bill had been passed by the Lok Sabha by the Modi government on January 8 but was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

The bill is likely to be introduced afresh in the ongoing session. It needs to be passed by both Houses in order to become a law.

Why the Opposition

People in Northeast have opposed the bill saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

The BJP led Meghalaya and Mizoram governments have also strongly opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill and adopted resolutions against it.

In fact, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) snapped ties with the BJP over the Citizenship Bill.

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