A joint committee of Parliamentarians on Thursday deliberated various issues related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and heard representations of a number of civil society groups. The committee, headed by BJP MP Satyapal Singh, took note of the representations and views of groups belonging to Sindhi, Bengali and Gujarati communities on how to go about the proposed amendments in the legislation.
However, no decision has been taken by the committee yet, a source privy to the deliberations said.
The government is also yet to reply to the questions posed by a few MPs on the explanations given by Constitutional experts that the proposal to grant Indian citizenship on the basis of religion is violation of the Constitutional provisions.
The original Citizenship Act, passed in 1955, defines the concept of Indian citizenship, and lists out ways to acquire the same, explicitly denying citizenship to all undocumented migrants.
An illegal migrant, the Act states, “is a foreigner who enters India without a valid passport or travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time”.
A key amendment in the new bill, however, seeks to grant citizenship to people without valid documents from minority communities —- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians —- from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India.
“In the Citizenship Act, 1955…the following proviso shall be inserted namely: ‘Provided that persons belonging to minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have 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 order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of this Act,” the amendment reads.
The bill is now open to views and suggestions from individuals and associations/bodies concerned.
The memorandum submitted to the committee would form part of the records of the committee and would be treated as “confidential” and would enjoy privilege of the committee.