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Decoding the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 for UPSC Aspirants



Syllabus:

Preliminary Examination: Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Main Examination: General Studies II: Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Source: LM, TH

Introduction

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 is a significant piece of legislation in India that has sparked considerable debate and discussion. For UPSC aspirants, understanding the nuances of this Act is crucial for both the Prelims and Mains examinations. Here’s an in-depth analysis of the CAA and related concepts:

What is the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019?

The CAA 2019 amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to provide a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who belong to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities and arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.

Current Status of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

The CAA was passed by the Indian Parliament in December 2019 and came into effect on January 10, 2020. Recently, the government has notified the rules under the CAA, which means the Act is now operational.

Key Features of the Act

  • The law seeks to provide citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who came to India on or before December 31, 2014 from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  • The Indian citizenship will be granted to the immigrant who has lived in India in the last one year and at least five of the last 14 years. Earlier for the migrants, citizenship by naturalisation was 11 years.

  • The law exempts the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura as included in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution including the tribal areas of Karbi Anglong in Assam, Garo Hills in Meghalaya, Chakma district in Mizoram, and Tribal areas district in Tripura.

Whose application will be considered under CAA?

  • Individual of Indian origin seeking registration as a citizen of India

  • Individal married to a citizen of India, seeking registration as a citizen of India

  • Minor child of an Indian citizen, seeking registration as a citizen of India

  • Individual whose parents are registered as citizens of India, seeking registration as a citizen of India

  • Individual who or either of their parents was a citizen of Independent India, seeking registration as a citizen of India

  • Individual who is registered as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder

Concerns Associated with the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

The CAA has been criticised as discriminating on the basis of religion, particularly for excluding Muslims6. Critics express concerns that the bill would be used, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), to render many Muslim citizens stateless, as they may be unable to meet stringent birth or identity proof requirements.

Ideas and Rules of Citizenship Before CAA, 2019

  • Before the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, the rules of citizenship in India were primarily governed by the Citizenship Act of 1955. This act outlined the ways in which citizenship could be acquired: by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation, and by incorporation of territory. The act also specified the conditions under which citizenship could be terminated.

  • The CAA 2019 introduced amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955, providing a pathway for non-Muslim immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who faced religious persecution, to obtain Indian citizenship. It reduced the requirement of the number of years of residence in India for naturalisation of these immigrants from twelve years to six years.

  • The ideas of citizenship before the CAA 2019 were based on secular principles without any distinction based on religion. The CAA 2019 has been a subject of much debate and has led to widespread protests due to concerns over its exclusion of Muslims and the potential impact on the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

Section 6A of Citizenship Act

Section 6A of the Citizenship Act is a special provision for Assam. It was added to the Citizenship Act in line with the ‘Assam Accord,’ a Memorandum of Settlement signed in 1985, between the Union government and leaders of the Assam Movement. The provision allows people who entered India between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, and have been living in Assam, to register themselves as citizens.

Questions Surrounding Section 6A

The constitutionality of Section 6A has been challenged in court, with some arguing that it is discriminatory against people who migrated to Assam after 1971. There have been concerns about how Section 6A has been implemented, with some people alleging that it has led to the disenfranchisement of legitimate citizens.

What is NRC (National Register of Citizens)?

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens. It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Is NRC connected to CAA?

The government has clarified that CAA has no link with NRC. The National Register of Citizens (NRC), established in 1951, serves as a comprehensive database of Indian citizens. It is kept within the administrative domains of deputy commissioners and sub-divisional officers. It has only thus far been introduced in Assam, a region battling challenges due to illegal immigration. The aim is two-pronged: to expunge unauthorised entries and act as a deterrent against prospective migrations.

What is NPR?

The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. It includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen. The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The first National Pop