DMPQ- Critically evaluate the citizenship amendment act 2019.

Key features of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 are as :

  • It proposes that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will not be treated as illegal immigrants even when they have entered India without valid documents.
  • It seeks to include a separate column in the citizenship form for applicants belonging to these 6 communities from those 3 countries.
  • They will not be deported as illegal immigrants under the Passport (Entry into India) Act of 1920 and the Foreigners Act of 1946.
  • The amendment reduces the period of residency from 12 years (as mentioned in the Citizenship Act, 1955) to 7 years, for acquiring permanent citizenship through naturalisation.

Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution. The Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality. The bill violates the Right to Equality (Article 14) as it seeks to grant citizenships to illegal migrants on the basis of religion. It fails the test of reasonability contained in Article 14. This is because it does not provide any concrete reasons for limiting eligibility of citizenship to 6 minorities of only 3 countries.

Critics are saying that Section 6A of the Citizenship Act relates to provisions for citizenship of people covered by the Assam Accord. The Act fixes March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam. However, the Bill makes December 31, 2014 as the cut-off date. The bill would undermine the rights of indigenous Assamese people and would be in violation of Clause 6 of Assam accord which ensures constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

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