Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Unequal, unsecular: On Citizenship Amendment Bill

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship Amendment Bill

Mains level : Analysis of the provisions

Context

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB), is discriminatory and its constitutionality has to be subjected to strict judicial scrutiny. 

Passing of the bill

  • The government went ahead with it, despite opposition in Parliament, as well as from enlightened sections. 
  • The proposed amendment singles out a community for hostile treatment. 
  • The Bill chooses to open its citizenship door to non-Muslims from three nations with a Muslim majority — Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. 

Provisions

  • It provides an opportunity for members of minority communities from these countries who had entered India prior to December 31, 2014, to apply for citizenship through naturalisation. 
  • The residential requirement for this category for naturalisation is reduced from 11 years to five. 
  • The Bill avoids the words ‘persecuted minorities’. The Statement of Objects and Reasons says, “many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religions” in these three countries. 
  • The Home Ministry notifications in 2015-2016 had exempted these undocumented migrants from the adverse penal consequences under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946. It refers to this notification.
  • The CAB creates a category of people on the basis of their religion and renders them eligible for its beneficial effects.

Arguments against it

  • It will not extend to those persecuted in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, from where Rohingya Muslims and Tamils are staying in the country as refugees. 
  • It fails to allow Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims, who also face persecution, to apply for citizenship. 
  • CAB’s provisions do not apply to tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, and the Inner Line Permit areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram. 
  • The main provisions fail to do careful and meaningful categorisation. 

Conclusion

  • The central feature of the equal protection of the law in Article 14 is that the basis for classifying a group for a particular kind of treatment should bear a rational nexus with the overall objective. 
  • If protecting persecuted neighborhood minorities is the objective, the classification may fail the test of constitutionality because of the exclusion of some countries and communities using religion.

Back2Basics

Back in debate: The Citizenship Amendment Bill

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