Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 Implemented in India

12 Mar 2024  Read 2469 Views

Over the last six years, India has given citizenship to about more than 3000 people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. You might wonder, if the government is already allowing immigrants to become Indian citizens, why is there a need for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 to be implemented? 

Well, CAA sets up rules for people moving to India who might have been seen as "illegal". It allows them to apply for Indian citizenship if they meet specific requirements.

This blog will unpack this complex yet crucial piece of legislation, making it easy to understand. 

What has Happened?

Even though the Act was approved in December 2019, the Rules for how it should be followed weren't made official. This meant the law was stuck in the middle for the past four years.

On 11 March 2024, the government released the CAA 2019 Rules four years after Parliament passed the law. This law aims to fast-track the citizenship process for communities who have entered India from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan before 31 December 2014.

These new rules, called the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, will let people who qualify under the CAA 2019 apply to become Indian citizens.

What is CAA 2019?

The Indian government introduced the CAA in December 2019. This Amendment Act granted citizenship to illegal immigrants from six religious communities of neighbouring countries who entered India before 31 December 2014. 

Why was CAA 2019 implemented?

The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 aims to change the Citizenship Act, the Passport Act, and the Foreigners Act. It says that if undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan come to India and belong to religious groups that are minorities in those countries, they might still be allowed to stay in India and become citizens.

Definition of Illegal Migrant under CAA

Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

Why Delay in Implementing the CAA?

  • Initially, there was strong disagreement and protests, especially in places like Assam and Tripura. People were worried about population changes, which made them resist the Act.

  • The CAA faced legal challenges, with cases in the Supreme Court questioning its constitutional validity.

  • Critics argued that the law was unjust because it excluded specific persecuted groups, such as the Rohingya from Myanmar and Tibetan Buddhists.

  • After consent from the President in Dec 2019, there was a surge in COVID-19, and then the pandemic happened, which further contributed to delays in the implementation process.

Key Features of CAA 2019.

  1. Applicable to Indians? CAA does not apply to Indian citizens.

  2. Applicable to Whom? Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, and Parsis don't have legal documents coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan.

  3. Years of Residence? The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement of these migrants from 11 years to 5 years.

  4. Aim? The legislation applies to those "forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion."

  5. The Cut-off Date? 31 December 2014, which means the person applying must have come to India by that date or earlier.

Special Exclusions: 

The Act further states that the citizenship rights for undocumented immigrants will not apply to the tribal districts of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, which are listed in the Constitution's Sixth Schedule.

It will also not apply to regions covered by the Inner Line Permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

History of Citizenship Amendment Act: Timeline

15 July 2016: The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was introduced in Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act 1955.

7 January 2019: A Joint Parliamentary Committee submits its report on the Bill.

8 January 2019: The Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha.

End of 16th Lok Sabha: The Bill lapses with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

9 December 2019: The Bill is reintroduced in the 17th Lok Sabha by Amit Shah.

10 December 2019: The Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha.

11 December 2019: The Rajya Sabha also passes the Bill.

12 December 2019: President Ram Nath Kovind approves the Bill, and CAB is now CAA.

Does the Act violate Article 14? 

Critics say the CAA goes against Article 14 of the Constitution, which promises the right to equality. They argue that it unfairly targets certain groups based on religion and constitutes class legislation.

The CAA contradicts Article 14, which requires not only fair categorisation with valid classification but also that such classifications be non-arbitrary.

In response to this contention, some favour the Act by saying that CAA doesn't violate Article 14 because this Article allows for "reasonable classification". In this situation, there are valid classifications.

Indian Courts highlighted that the government could decide who gets citizenship without treating everyone the same under Article 14. Also, foreigners in India only have the rights given in Article 21, and they can't demand citizenship as a right.

Why is CAA controversial? 

  1. Exclusion of the Muslim community: The main point of controversy was that this act violated the secular principles of India's Constitution by favouring some religions over others. 

  2. Relationship with the NRC: The CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) are often discussed together, with the CAA aiding religious groups (non-Muslim) to become citizens and the NRC focusing on removing illegal immigrants from India, raising concerns about Muslims being excluded from citizenship.

  3. Impact on the Northeastern States: This has affected the northeastern states of India a lot, especially Assam, where the issue of illegal immigration has been a longstanding event. Some worry that this law might make even more people from nearby countries come in, which could have adverse sociocultural & political effects on the local people.

  4. Potential for Statelessness: The Act and the NRC have made people worried that some might lose their citizenship. If someone can't show enough documents to prove they're citizens during the NRC process, they might not be counted as citizens.

Conclusion

To conclude, the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 is essential to recognise the humanitarian focus and sympathetic treatment of refugees. Despite the recent implementation, the government has already been facilitating Indian citizenship for eligible individuals. Over the past two years, more than 30 district magistrates and home secretaries across 9 states have been authorised to grant citizenship to those in need.

Moving forward, all citizenship applications will be processed exclusively online, making the process more accessible. For more information and to apply, visit the Official Website!

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 29 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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