The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 And Its Interplay With National Register Of Citizens (NRC)

This research paper examines the discussion about the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 that what was the need for introducing the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 despite having Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 and why after the introduction it has created violence amongst the people.

The logic behind implementation of the act and the perspective of the Indian Citizens are also discussed. The paper aims to give knowledge to the society that what things are under the favour of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and what are not. The journey of the Act from facing the criticism and opposition to the imposition has also been scrutinized. It has also been discussed about its dilemma with the Indian Constitution and the consequences of imposing National Register of Citizens to the nation-wide.

Before starting, lets us know that basic aim behind imposing the act:

The basic purpose of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is to give fast track Indian Citizenship to the illegal immigrants who are Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian and migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and living in India without the official documentation.

Introduction:
Notified by the Central Government on 12th December 2019, one of the most controversial acts, The Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed. The enforcement of this act has faced a lot of criticism than any other acts.

Many protests broken out across India, some people became violent causing deaths, as they were against the act. The situation in some of the cities became that worse that curfew was imposed and heavy police action was taken, even shutdown of Internet was required in some of the cities. The situation of Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University is known to everyone. No one can forget the Riots, Mass shooting by Police, lathi charge, stone pelting, and vandalism. Private and Public property was destroyed completely. Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Hyderabad etc were the cities where the situation became uncontrollable and was affected badly.

About the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019:

The basic purpose of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is to give fast track Indian Citizenship to the illegal immigrants who are Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian and migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and living in India without the official documentation. However, 12 years of the residence is the standard requirement for attaining the Citizenship of India. The preference for these religions is given because they have faced persecution in those three countries. Thus, people of these religions will get Indian Citizenship even if they don’t have the documentation and also, will not be deported.

The outrage of the people burst out from the fact that this act is partial towards the Hindus, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists or Sikhs thus excluding Muslims and Tribal areas in Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram from the Act. The reason for the exclusion of the Tribal Areas of the northeast state is that these are included in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The areas that are under the Inner Limit as per Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 are also excluded from the act. Thus, excluding entire Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland from the act.

Background:
Earlier, Indian Constitution guaranteed citizenship to all of the Indian Citizens irrespective of their religion. Even, the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955 was passed. In the act, there was the provision that if a person belonging from undivided India’ is living in India for 7 years or the person from foreign countries living in India for 12 years, then only citizenship will be given to them.
Many of the illegal immigrants and refugees entered India without any legal document and history and started living. Many Bangladeshi and Pakistani illegal immigrants and refugees (approx 1.9 million) are living in the country.

The official discussion about the illegality residency of the people was done, where it was decided that only people living with legal documents can stay in the country and others will be deported to their respective countries. The main concern was that religious minorities were facing persecution in other country and were forced to take shelter in India. So, in order to prevent them the implementation of CAA was decided.

Government’s logic behind the Act:

The legislation department of India claimed that many people who are Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian were forced to go to Indian and were persecuted on the religion basis. So the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 aims to protect those persecuted people from the status of illegal immigrants. For getting the status of Indian Citizen, the cut-off date is 31st December 2014 which means that the immigrants must have entered the country on or before 31st December.

The question was raised that Ahmedia Muslim Sect and Shias face injustice in Pakistan, while Rohingya Muslims and Hindus in Burma and Christians Tamils and Hindus in Sri Lanka. The government said that all over the world the Islamic countries are more than Hindu nations so the Muslims who are facing injustice can seek refuge to the other Islamic Nations but the Hindus won’t be able to seek any shelter in other countries.

It is also said by the Government that their intention of making the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was not to discriminate anyone on a religious basis rather it was for the benefit for the immigrants who are living in India with the tag of Illegal Immigrants. Though, it was also quoted that, implementation of new things always have criticism but after some times, the angered people will understand the concept and will accept the Act. Presently, many people have accepted the Act.

Reasons for the protest against the act:

Mainly, because of the two reasons the protest happened:
The fear of the rush of immigrants was the contention for the protest from the North-East states. Assam was quite angry as the (Citizenship Amendment) Act, 2019 covers most parts of the Assam and the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants may hamper the cultural identities of the state. Immigrants who are deemed to be illegal may cause rush as they will not get Indian citizenship because of these areas are excluded from the act. People were afraid that this may change the linguistic and demographic uniqueness of the area.

While in the rest of the country, the protest was for excluding Muslims from the act. They were objecting that the Act is anti-secular and thus violating the provisions of the Indian Constitution as it provided special advantages to a specific religion and not to Muslims.

Dilemma: Does the act violate Indian Constitution:

In the Keshavananda Bharti Case, the Supreme Court passed the judgment that Justice- whether social, economic, or political, these cannot be violated and even Secularism, equality and non-discrimination terms were inserted in the Preamble of Indian Constitution. It was said that these terms shall not be violated in any of the circumstances as it the soul background of our constitution. Further, Article 14 talks about the Right to Equality before the law and Article 15 talks about the non-discrimination of a person irrespective of their caste, religion, gender, race, place of birth and sex.

Thus, the CAA somewhere violates Article 14 and 15, as somehow there is discrimination among the people based on their religion. It directly or indirectly violates the Secularism of our Constitution and also gives unfavourable treatment to the people based on their religion.

But the dilemma occurs when the logic of the government behind imposing the act is studied.
Petitions filed against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019:
The day on which President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent regarding the bill, on the next day dozens of the Petition was filed against the bill. The contention of every petition is almost the same stating that Citizenship (Amendment) Act is discriminatory in nature and violating the provisions of Indian Constitution, therefore, it shall be struck down or keep it at stay.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) filed the petition against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, just after a day when Rajya Sabha passed the bill. The IUML contended that the CAB is violating the Constitution provision all should be treated alike.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also filed a plea stating that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a brazen attack and also the act treats equals as unequal which is against the Indian Constitution.

The Assam Students Unions, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hindi, Peace Party have also filed the petition against the act. Even the NGO Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate’ has also filed including many law students.

In one of the Petitions, it was said that:

It is known to everyone that the Indian Constitution is the bundle of rights which includes Human Rights to Individual Rights everything. The provisions of Article 19 is only applicable to the Indian citizens while Article 14 and 21 apply to all persons whether citizen or not.

Referring to the case: National Human Rights Commission vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 1996, the question was raised regarding the Chakma refugees who migrated from Bangladesh to India without any documents. The court held in this case that Article 21 Right to life and liberty applies to everyone thus; Article 21 will also be applicable on the Chakmas. So, according to this case law, the CAA is unconstitutional as it violates both Article 14 and 21.

On 22nd January, the Supreme Court refused to hold the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Even, the court hinted that in future may be larger constitution bench will be required but currently, the government are only replying to the pending petitions.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC):

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) was executed in Assam to identify illegal immigrants. This was the order of the Supreme Court to apply NRC in a specific state to identify the illegal immigrants and to remove them. As a result of this, approx 19, 00,000 applicants were found to be the illegal immigrants where maximum were Hindus. As the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 has been passed so those illegal immigrants will get the Indian Citizenship excluding the immigrants who are Muslims. The remaining immigrants will be shifted to the detention centres.

Now, it is been claimed that the government are planning to implement the NRC to the whole of India.

Consequences of implementing National Register for Citizens Nation-wide:

According to the UNICEF’s 2012 report, around 40% of urban births and approx 65% of the rural births are not registered in India and thus, no birth certificate is there with them.
If the National Register for Citizens gets enforced across India then residents of the country have to show their identity and evidence that they are residents of India. They have to submit the proper documentation to the government which will show their identity of being the Indian.

The document can be Aadhar Card, Birth Certificate or any other documents which are authentic and have legal status. The people who do not have the documents will be immediately declared as illegal immigrants. But here, there is a relief for those people who are falling under the 6 religious communities as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act has been passed so they will be granted citizenship easily without any hurdle.

But the problem is for those people who are falling under those 6 religious communities if they will not have the proper documentation they will be deported to the detention centres. The Ministry of External Affairs will contact across the nation that from whey are originated and if found, then they will be deported to their originated country.

The government has to pre-prepared for dealing with the anger and fierce of the people as just enforcement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 has caused a lot of disturbance all over the country causing violence and deaths of many people. Everyone is well aware of the fact that many people of India are still illiterate and doesn’t know the process of accessing the official documentation. Many people will not understand the process and meaning of National Register of Citizens. People with low income and residing in rural areas don’t have the documents and also they do not have the access to get the documents. Due to lack of awareness, the old population will suffer a lot of trouble and rush.

One of the most horrifying parts which will cause severe menace is the NRC applicability will be discriminatory towards the Muslims. The CAA-NRC will damage the Muslim minorities’ citizenship rights. Just the enforcement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 caused violence so implementation of NRC Nation-wide will be worse and no one can assume that how long it will last.

The status of the constitutionality of CAA has already been challenged in the Courts. So, the Supreme Courts will only decide the case by using the concept of Article 14 (Equality before Law) which is intelligible differential and rational relation to the goal’.

The expression intelligible differential can be explained as the legislation can distinguish things or person under the concept of rational nexus wherein there is a set goal which has to be achieved by the statue. Equality before Law doesn’t mean that the same law will apply to all people. Article 14 only forbids the class classification but allows the reasonable classification that can be done by the legislation of the persons, objects or the transactions.

The expression rational relation to the goal can be explained as there is a set the goal which can be achieved by doing the reasonable classification.

So, the court can say that implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 for the Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian are the reasonable classification and categorized accordingly. The ultimate goal doing this shall be to legal status to all the illegal immigrants who are falling under those 6 religions who were suffered from the injustice and persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Also, there is a provision that Parliament is free for enacting the laws that are related to nationality or citizenship. This can only be done by seeing the present conditions and circumstances of the country. Therefore, the enforcement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) can be completely said as valid.

So, above can be the contention of the court against all the petitions that are filed challenging the constitutionality validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Conclusion:
Combining CAA-NRC will lead to a deep wound on the Indian Constitution. India is a Secular State; the implementation of the National Register of Citizens nationwide is against the fundamentals of the Indian Constitution as it is arbitrariness on a religious basis. Looking at the future perspective, National Register of Citizens will affect the people negatively as there are excessive illiteracy and lack of awareness.

The legislation shall check with the implementation that it should not be discriminatory towards the religion and also the discrimination affects the peace and harmony of the country immensely. So, for the illegal immigrants more the practical proposition shall be there with the fairness in the implementation and its applicability.

References:

  1. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, No. 47, Acts of Parliament, 2019 (India).
  2. Indian Constitution, Article 14
  3. Indian Constitution, Article 15
  4. Indian Constitution, Article 19
  5. Indian Constitution, Article 21
  6. BBC, Citizenship Amendment Act (Jan. 22, 2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-51203104
  7. The Hindu, Citizenship Amendment Act, https://www.thehindu.com/topic/citizenship-amendment-act/
  8. Live Mint, Citizenship Amendment Act, (Dec. 15, 2019, 2.57 PM), https://www.livemint.com/news/india/citizenship-amendment-act-2019-all-you-need-to-know-11576401546515.html
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The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 And Its Interplay With National Register Of Citizens (NRC)

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