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Rules Notified for Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019

Why is it in the news?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enacted in December 2019.

 

More about the news

  • In December 2019, Parliament amended the Citizenship Act, 1955, to enable citizenship for migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities who entered India before December 31, 2014, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh.
  • The law was notified on January 10, 2020, amidst protests across the country, particularly in Assam, but could not be implemented due to the absence of accompanying Rules.
  • On May 28, 2021, the Union government issued an order under Section 16 of The Citizenship Act, 1955, granting district collectors in 13 districts with high migrant populations the authority to accept citizenship applications from eligible groups identified in the 2019 amendment.

 

About Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019

  • Aimed to fast-track Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians (excluding Muslims) fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
  • Relaxed eligibility criteria for migrants from these countries, specifically on religious lines.
  • Certain areas, including tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, and those protected by the ‘Inner Line’ system, were exempted from the purview of the CAA.
  • The ‘Inner Line’ system, which requires an Inner Line Permit (ILP) for entry and stay in designated areas, separates these tribal-majority hills from the plains areas.

 

Highlights of the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024

 

Eligibility Criteria for Citizenship Application:

  • Individuals of Indian origin seeking registration as citizens of India.
  • Individuals married to citizens of India, seeking registration as citizens of India.
  • Minor children of Indian citizens seeking registration as citizens of India, etc.

 

Documents Required for Citizenship by Naturalization:

  • Submission of Form VIIIA: Applicants submit Form VIIIA containing personal details and necessary information for the naturalization process.
  • Affidavit Verification: Applicants must provide an affidavit verifying the accuracy of statements made in the application.
  • Character Affidavit: Applicants furnish an affidavit from an Indian citizen attesting to their character, serving as testimony to their reputation and conduct.
  • Language Declaration: Applicants declare their proficiency in one of the languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

 

Application Submission Process:

  • Electronic Submission: Applications are electronically submitted by applicants to the Empowered Committee via the District Level Committee designated by the Central Government.
  • Acknowledgment: Upon submission, an acknowledgment in Form IX is electronically generated.
  • Document Verification: The District Level Committee, led by a Designated Officer, verifies the submitted documents.
  • Oath of Allegiance: The Designated Officer administers the oath of allegiance specified in the Second Schedule to the Citizenship Act, 1955, to the applicant.
  • Renunciation Declaration: Each application includes a declaration by the applicant renouncing their citizenship of their current country, irrevocably and without future claim.

 

Challenges to Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019

  • Legal Challenge: The 2019 amendment to the Citizenship Act faced a legal challenge before the Supreme Court in 2020 by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and others, alleging discrimination.
  • Right to Equality: The challenge argues that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which ensures equality before the law and equal protection of laws within India.
  • Targeting Muslims: Concerns have been raised that the combination of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the CAA could disproportionately affect Muslims, leading to their targeted exclusion.
  • Violation of Secularism: Critics argue that making religion a basis for citizenship eligibility contradicts the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution, which is considered a fundamental feature.
  • Section 6A of Citizenship Act: Section 6A, introduced after the Assam Accord in 1985, determines the status of foreigners in Assam, setting a cutoff date of March 24, 1971, which conflicts with the cutoff date outlined in the CAA 2019.
  • Assam Protests: The northeastern state of Assam witnessed widespread protests against the CAA and NRC, with concerns over the potential loss of political, cultural, and land rights, as well as fears of increased migration from Bangladesh.
  • Violence in Protests: Some of the protests in Assam and other northeastern states turned violent, reflecting the deep-seated anxieties and frustrations among certain communities regarding the implications of the CAA and NRC.
  • Political Rights: Protesters in Assam and the northeast fear that the implementation of the CAA could lead to the dilution of their political representation and rights within their own states.
  • Cultural and Land Rights: The protests also highlight concerns about the preservation of indigenous cultures and protection of land rights in the face of potential demographic shifts resulting from the CAA and NRC implementation.

 

Government’s Justification

  • The government argues that Muslims were excluded from the CAA’s provisions because they are not considered persecuted minorities in the Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
  • There’s a contention that the selection of these three countries might have been motivated by a desire to exclude Muslims, especially considering other persecuted minorities such as Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka, Rohingyas in Myanmar, and minority Muslim sects like Ahmadiyyas and Hazaras.

 

What lies ahead

  • The Supreme Court will evaluate two key issues: 1) Whether the preferential treatment given to persecuted minorities from the three specified countries is a reasonable classification under Article 14. 2) Whether the exclusion of Muslims constitutes discrimination under the same constitutional article.
  • The court will apply the principles established under Article 14, which require any differentiation to have an “intelligible differentia” and a rational nexus to the objective of the law.
·       Intelligible Differentia: The classification must be based on a characteristic that can be clearly understood and distinguishes the group being treated differently.

·       Rational Nexus: The differentia must have a logical connection to the purpose intended by the law.

 

  • The Supreme Court has the authority to strike down a classification if it is deemed arbitrary, as seen in the recent case of electoral bonds, where the court found the scheme “manifestly arbitrary.”

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