People participate in a torchlight procession to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Guwahati, Assam. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
Late on Thursday, the Union Law Ministry issued an official notification, which stated that President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019. The Bill seeks to grant citizenship to individuals who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, or Parsi who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan by the cut-off date of December 31, 2014.
To amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, an earlier version of the CAB was introduced in 2016. This Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019. However, it lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha this summer.
The Bill, that has just become law, differs from the Bill that was passed by Lok Sabha in January in a couple of significant aspects. According to an analysis of the Bills published by PRS Legislative Research, they are:
Applicability of the new law in certain parts of India
Under the new citizenship law, illegal migrants belonging to these six religions from the three specified countries shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed when they acquire citizenship.
The important exception, added in the law, however, is this: The provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or 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.
It will also not apply to the areas under the "Inner Line” under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The "Inner Line Permit" regulates the travel of Indians to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.
Manipur too has been given protection under the Inner Line Permit regime, which means the provisions of the law will not be applicable in four Northeastern states.
Eligibility for citizenship by naturalisation
The original Citizenship Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person has resided in India, or been in central government service for the last 12 months, and at least for 11 years of the preceding 14 years.
The Bill passed by Lok Sabha in January created an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with regard to this qualification. For these groups of persons, the 11 years’ requirement was reduced to 6 years.
The new citizenship Act has further reduced the period of naturalisation for such group of persons from six years to five years, the PRS analysis says.