Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Cabinet clears Citizenship Amendment Bill


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NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Monday cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the bill and it is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, an official privy to the development said.
The move came within hours of the presentation in Lok Sabha of a report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee examining the bill that was first introduced in Parliament in 2016.
Large sections of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after March 24, 1971 should be deported.
The fresh bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document. This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014.
Eight influential students’ bodies of the Northeast, besides more than 40 socio-cultural organisations of Assam, have called an 11-hour bandh on Tuesday in protest against the central government’s move to amend the Citizenship Act.
The JPC report was prepared with a majority vote as opposition members have opposed the move to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.
Referring to the concerns in many quarters over the amendment to Section 6A in the proposed bill to give citizenship to minority groups from neighbouring countries, the 440-page report said the Department of Legal Affairs has opined that the proposal to legalise the minority migrants who entered Assam till December, 2014 without valid travel documents appears to be contrary to the Assam Accord.
However, the legislative department clarified that Section 6A of the original Citizenship Act only deals with foreigners who entered India from Bangladesh into Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971. It does not provide for any form of detection, deletion or expulsion of foreigners beyond that date.
The report noted that the proposed proviso to exempt persons belonging to certain minority communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has general application beyond the Assam Accord and is intended to apply to the whole of India.
The Legislative Department has emphasised that there appears to be no conflict in the application of the proposed proviso regarding exemption of minority communities coming from Bangladesh to Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 24, 1971 as per the Assam Accord, it said.
Referring to a petition pending in the Supreme Court, the Committee found that Section 6A of the original Act is valid until the larger bench of the Supreme Court delivers its final verdict on the matter.
The report said the Committee felt that, in view of the anxieties and concerns expressed by the civil society groups in Assam and other northeastern states, the state and central governments should formulate rules and regulations under Clause 6 A to ensure that the identities of indigenous people are not threatened in any way by “unintended consequences” of the Citizenship Bill. (Agencies)


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