The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which seeks to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan facing religious persecution there, was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah today.
Introducing the bill, Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 is not against minorities but against infiltrators.
Amit Shah said the proposed legislation is being brought on the basis of reasonable classifications provided under the Constitution and it does not violate any of its provisions.
The bill, he said, seeks to give Indian nationality to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are facing religious persecution there.
The home minister said laws were framed to give citizenship to people on several occasions in the past, including in 1971 after the creation of Bangladesh and attacks on Indians in Uganda, by using the provision of reasonable classifications.
“This bill is not even .001 per cent against minorities. It is against infiltrators,” he said.
Earlier, opposition leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Saugata Roy, N K Premchandran, Gaurav Gogoi, Shashi Tharoor, Assaduddin Owaisi opposed the introduction of the bill, saying it was violative of various provisions of the Constitution, including move to grant citizenship on the basis on religion.
The bill was introduced after a division of votes for which 293 MPs voted in favour and 82 voted against.
According to the proposed legislation, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
“In Citizenship Act, in Section 2 in sub-section (i), in clause (b) the following proviso shall be inserted namely:- “provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December 2014 and who has been exempted by the central government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act,” the Bill said.
Such refugees will be given Indian citizenship after they have resided in India for five years (six years in CAB 2016), instead of 11 years earlier, it said.
The Bill also proposes to give immunity to such refugees facing legal cases after being found illegal migrants.
“On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him.
“Provided that such person shall not be disqualified for making application for citizenship under this section on the ground that the proceeding pending against him and the central government or authority specified by it in this behalf shall not reject his application on that ground if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of citizenship under section,” it said.
The Bill also states: “Provided further that the person who makes the application for citizenship under this section shall not be deprived of his rights and privileges to which he was entitled on the date of receipt of his application on the ground of making such application”.
According to the proposed legislation, the amendment will not be applicable to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and in the areas covered under The Inner Line, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The ILP regime is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The Bill also proposes to incorporate a sub-section (d) to Section 7, providing for cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registration where the OCI card-holder has violated any provision of the Citizenship Act or any other law in force.
However, the cancellation order shall not be passed unless the OCI card-holder has been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard. This amendment was also proposed in the 2016.