CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL,2019 – INTERPRETATION OF IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY
Written by : Sachin Yadav , 1st year LL.B, Lovely Professional University
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) had originally been drafted by the Narendra Modi government in its previous term in 2016. The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill in January 2019 but with the end of its tenure in May, the legislation lapsed. The new CAB was passed by both houses of Parliament in December. The Citizenship Act, of 1955 has been amended five times before (1986, 1992, 2003, 2005 and 2015) - three times under the Congress-led governments and twice under the BJP-led governments. It would not be an overstatement to describe The Citizenship (Amendment) Act,2019 as a very contentious Act that has caused immense uproar nationwide. If the monsoon session of Parliament created history by junking the controversial Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special powers to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, this winter session that ended this Friday became known for another equally controversial legislation - the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which now, after being passed has become an Act. In this article, we will be discussing the meaning , constitutional validity and certain points related to CAB,2019.
WHAT IS THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019?
Those belonging to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christian religions, coming in from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan stand a chance to become Indian, even if they don‘t have requisite documents. Moreover, they will not be deported for not having documents. The amendment made in the Citizenship Act, 1955 earlier required the applicant to have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years but now it relaxes this requirement from 11 years to six years, for six religions from the three nations who had arrived in India before 31 December 2014. The Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the 6th Schedule of the Constitution. This keeps almost the entire Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland out of the ambit of the Act.
THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019 AND ARTICLE 14 & 15.
Article 14 of our Constitution of India defines “Equality before law” which states that “ The state shall not deny any person equality before law or the equal protection of law within the territory of India”. The act entitles only the person belonging to six religions and three nations as stated above to acquire citizenship under this act. But, it particularly excludes Muslims from acquiring citizenship under the act, which clearly violates the Articles 14 and 15 which our Fundamental Rights enshrined under our Constitution. Article 15 states that Prohibition of Discrimination on grounds of religionparticular, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. So, if we analyze the constitutional validity of our CAA,2019, it violates Articles 14 & 15 as it violates Equality before the law as excluding only the Muslim religion person from acquiring citizenship under this act violates their Fundamental Rights as everybody is equal in the eyes of law & according to our law, there should be no violation of Fundamental Rights and in case of its infringement , proper justice should be provided. The same is being criticized by many social activist and the leaders of opposition parties and they claim it to be unconstitutional. These two fundamental rights are not exclusive to the citizens of India but to "any person". Another contention which has been made by the critics is that it simply grants the illegal non-Muslim migrants the status of legal migrants despite them having come to India without valid documents and permission. However, this provision is applicable if these people left their parent country following religious persecution. This debate stands to be unanswered and every person has his own point of view related to it and stands out to be a big question before the judiciary activists that to be answered.
THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019 AND SECULARISM
India is a secular country as mentioned in our preamble and this feature of Secularism distinguishes India from other countries stands to be questioned in the case of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. As held in the case of S.R.BOMMAI VS. UOI “Secularism” is the “basic structure of our constitution”. Furthermore, we can say that it excludes a particular religion and does not support it so it is unconstitutional and is against the principle of Secularism.
THE PATHS TO INDIAN CITIZENSHIP
Ø Constitutional provisions for citizenship
• Citizenship by domicile ( Article 5)
• Citizenship of emigrants from Pakistan ( Article 6)
• Citizenship of migrants to Pakistan ( Article 7)
• Citizenship of Indians abroad ( Article 8)
Ø Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955
o Citizenship by Birth ( Section 3 )
o Citizenship by descent ( Section 4 )
o Citizenship by Registration (Section 5 )
o Citizenship by naturalization ( Section 6)
o Citizenship by Incorporation of Territory ( Section 7 )
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE GOVERNMENT REGARDING THE PASSAGE OF CAA,2019
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has made forceful arguments on many occasions in his interviews saying India cannot shut its doors to people who have been persecuted by religious fanatics. He defended the exclusion of Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan saying Muslims are not likely to face religious persecution in a country where they are in the majority. ‘It is India’s responsibility to give refuge to those people who have been oppressed due to their faith. These people have faced historical injustice,’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the end of January.
According to the contention made by many national leaders and activist, somehow Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has various impacts which can be social , economic and many others. As if we talk socially it has impacted too much as due to the same many violent protest has taken place which disturbed the peace of the state and even led to the destruction of public property. The other reference which we can make here is that it has also impacted economically also as people migrate in search of economic opportunities. And the three main factors involved in the same our land, labour and capital. The first factor is impossible to move out but the other two which are also the main elements can be moved out and this makes the economy of that country sluggish and impacts the GDP growth of the country. Furthermore, in the concept of citizenship, many amendments have been made before this but this amendment has impacted all the spheres, not a particular one.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 turns out to be like a division based on religion excluding Muslims from acquiring citizenship under the Act. So, this exclusion turns out to be violative of our Fundamental Rights and also violates the principle of Secularism. It also has led to many violent movements such as the North East Delhi riots. The protest does not only remain in India but outside India in countries like Washington and North America. This CAA has also led to bloodshed as 100 lives were lost due to CAA protest. Hence, we can say that the passage of CAB was unliked by most of the people.
1. The Constitution of India, Art. 14 &15