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12-03-2024

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CAA: Issues in the legal challenge to the law

GS-2: Indian Constitution—Historical Underpinnings, Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.

 

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, passed by the Parliament of India, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, which provides for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship.


Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

 



Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019

The CAA amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to incorporate these provisions, marking a significant change in India's citizenship policy.


  • Aim: 
  1. To give citizenship to the target group of migrants even if they do not have valid travel documents as mandated in The Citizenship Act, 1955.
  2. To address the issue of persecution faced by religious minorities in neighbouring countries and provide them with refuge and citizenship in India.


  • The act provides a fast-track path to Indian citizenship for religious minorities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian – from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.


  • The act has also cut the period of citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 i.e. eligible immigrants from these countries who entered India before December 31, 2014, can apply for citizenship under the CAA.


  • Thus, the amendment relaxed the requirements for certain categories of migrants, specifically based on religious lines, originating from three neighbouring countries with Muslim-majority populations.


  • It is noteworthy that the act does not include Muslims among the eligible religious groups for expedited citizenship.


  • Criticism: The act violates the secular principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution by discriminating against Muslims and undermining the idea of equal treatment under the law.


  • Exempted Areas: Certain categories of areas, such as tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as well as areas safeguarded by the 'Inner Line' system, were excluded from the scope of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

 

Eligibility

  • Under the CAA Rules, migrants from these nations are required to demonstrate their country of origin, their religion, the date of their entry into India, and proficiency in an Indian language as prerequisites for applying for Indian citizenship.


  • Additionally, any document indicating that "either of the parents or grandparents or great-grandparents of the applicant is or had been a citizen of one of the three countries" is also acceptable.


  • The Rules specify 20 documents that can establish the date of entry into India for admissible proof.

 

Challenges in the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)

Legal Challenges:

  • Constitutional Validity: The CAA has faced legal challenges regarding its constitutionality, particularly with respect to Articles 14 (equality before law) and 15 (prohibition of discrimination) of the Indian Constitution. By providing preferential treatment to certain religious groups while excluding others, the CAA contravenes these fundamental rights and is seen as discriminatory and contrary to the principle of equality.


  • Against Secularism: The CAA's focus on granting citizenship based on religious lines, specifically excluding Muslims, is seen as contrary to the secular ethos of the Indian Constitution.


  • State Opposition: Several states have opposed the implementation of the CAA, leading to potential legal conflicts between the central government and state governments.


Administrative Challenges:

  • Documentation Verification: Verifying the authenticity of documents proving the eligibility criteria specified in the CAA can pose a significant administrative burden.


  • Infrastructure: Lack of adequate infrastructure and resources in government departments responsible for processing citizenship applications may hinder the smooth implementation of the CAA.


Social and Political Challenges:

  • Communal Tensions: The exclusion of Muslims from the purview of the CAA has led to communal tensions and polarization, affecting social harmony in various parts of the country.


  • Citizenship Criteria: The religious-based criteria for citizenship under the CAA have sparked debates about the secular nature of the Indian state and have been criticized for undermining the principles of equality and inclusivity.


  • Protest and Opposition: Widespread protests against the CAA have created political challenges for the government, leading to public unrest and opposition from various civil society groups and political parties.


International Relations:

  • Diplomatic Fallout: The CAA has strained relations with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, which have expressed concerns about its impact on bilateral relations and regional stability.


  • Refugee Crisis: The CAA's focus on granting citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries could exacerbate refugee crises and strain India's relations with international bodies and humanitarian organizations.


Economic Challenges:

  • Resource Allocation: Implementing the CAA may require significant financial resources for processing citizenship applications, accommodating new citizens, and addressing potential socio-economic challenges arising from demographic changes.


Section 6A of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and Assam: 

  • Section 6A was incorporated into the Citizenship Act subsequent to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985. The Accord outlines the criteria for identifying foreigners in the state of Assam, establishing March 24, 1971, as the cutoff date, which contradicts the cutoff date specified in the CAA 2019.

 

 

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