Updated: February 3, 2021 8:13:21 am
Delayed for over a year, the rules for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) may take five more months to be framed, the government told Parliament on Tuesday. The Ministry of Home Affairs told the Lok Sabha that the rules were still being framed, and an extension had been approved by the Committees on Subordinate Legislation for both Houses of Parliament.
While the Lok Sabha committee has granted the government time till April 9, the Rajya Sabha panel has extended the deadline till July 9, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said in reply to a question on when the rules would be framed. Notified on December 12, 2019, the Act had come into force on January 10, 2020.
The government also clarified in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday that no decision has been taken on a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) yet. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had earlier said the NRC would follow the CAA. While the CAA eases citizenship for illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, an NRC is planned to identify illegal immigrants, the government had said.
Seen as a move to disenfranchise Muslims, the CAA and NRC proposal had triggered widespread protests.
The CAA shadow
While the government had earlier said that the CAA and NRC were linked, its assertion that there were no plans for a nationwide NRC yet follows apprehensions expressed across states, with several of them saying they would not conduct an NPR.
In reply to observations by a Parliamentary Standing Committee over fears regarding the National Population Register (NPR) and Census, an Action Taken Report tabled by the government in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday said, “All individual level information collected in Census (is) confidential. In Census, only aggregated data are released at various administrative levels… It has been clarified at various levels in Government time and again that till now no decision has been taken to create National Register of Indian citizen.”
The Union Home Ministry has been deliberating CAA rules for over a year without any headway, sources said. The rules, which are essential for implementing the Act, would specify the kind of documents needed to prove if an applicant came to India before the cut-off date, fixed by the Act as December 31, 2014.
It has to also decide the nature of documents or evidence required to prove that an applicant came from the three countries mentioned in the Act. Notably, most illegal immigrants enter the country without any travel documents.
Sources said there would be no need for proof regarding if the applicant had faced religious persecution as a member of the minority community in the mentioned countries. “That would be deemed to be true. No one would have to prove religious persecution,” an official said.
Before the CAA was passed, Shah had repeated at rallies and press conferences that the NRC would follow the CAA. Following the protests, the government had tried hard to disassociate the two. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said there was no talk of the NRC within the government, and Shah had said it was not on the government agenda yet. The government has repeated this multiple times since then.
In reply to another question, the government indicated to Parliament Tuesday that the NRC in Assam — the only state to have compiled it so far — too won’t be notified immediately. It said the data would be notified only after the state government puts in place a security regime on the lines of Aadhaar for the same.
The final Assam NRC list had left out over 19 lakh people. In reply to a question on when the data would be notified, MoS Rai said, “The Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed the State Coordinator to enact an appropriate security regime on lines similar to the security regime provided for Aadhaar data and only thereafter the list of inclusions and exclusions shall be made available to the State Government, Central Government and Registrar General India.”
On the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s observations over apprehensions regarding Census 2021, the government told the Rajya Sabha that mass awareness measures were planned to dispel any fears, and that Phase I of the exercise as well as of updation of the NPR had been postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Congress MP Anand Sharma, had submitted its report in February last year, observing that there was a lot of dissatisfaction and fear among people regarding the NPR and Census. Following protests against the CAA and NRC, several states had said they would not implement the NPR exercise.
The Action Taken Report by the government says, “A 360 degree approach for communicating the right and clear message on the NPR has been planned to be followed. All kinds of media, i.e. social media, AV, Digital, Outdoor, print and word of mouth publicity tools are part of the planned media strategy. Right kind of messaging will be done to tackle the miscommunication and rumors around NPR and Census 2021.”
On the committee’s recommendation that Aadhaar data, with biometric details and metadata of individuals, be used to create a family database for the Census and updation of the NPR to reduce duplication of effort and expenditure, the government said that the NPR and Aadhaar were separate exercises, with the former collecting more detailed data. “Aadhaar number has been developed as a separate database which is being used only for de-duplication purpose and authentication of beneficiaries of various Government schemes,” the government reply said.
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