The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 received President’s assent on 12 December, 2019. It aims to make changes in the Citizenship Act, 1955, Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, if the illegal migrants belong to religious minority groups of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian from neighboring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Therefore the Act makes it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring Muslim countries to get Indian citizenship. Rationale is to protect those who flee the three countries due to religious persecution.


Illegal migrant in India is a person who enters India without valid travel documents like passport and visa or enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period. Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, apply to illegal migrants by application of which they can be put into jail or can be deported.

The rationale for the CAA has its roots in two sources — Partition and the religious persecution of non-Muslims in Islamic countries. The argument is that such non-Muslims have no other place that they may claim as home as a matter of right and India would be remiss in not remedying this injustice.

Salient Features of the Act

  • It grants Indian Citizenship to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who arrived on or before 31 December, 2014 in to India after facing persecution on grounds of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, if they fulfil conditions for grant of citizenship.
  • It amends the Third Schedule to the Acttomakeapplicantsbelongingtothesaidcommunitiesfromtheaforesaidcountrieseligibleforcitizenshipby naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years.
  • It would not apply to tribal are a of Assam,Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation,1873. Manipur has also been brought under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime through a recent Gazette Notification.
  • A person who makes an application for citizenship would not be disqualified for making the application on the ground that a proceeding is pending against him/her and the application would not be rejected on that ground, if he is otherwise found qualified for grant of citizenship. Further, the person who makes an application for citizenship would not be deprived of his/her rights and privileges to which he/she was entitled on the date of receipt of his application.
  • It also seeks to amend section 7D so as to empower the Central Government to cancel registration as Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder,after providing are as on able opportunity of being heard, in case of violation of any provisions of the Citizenship Act or any other law for the time being in force.


  • It is a special law to enable friendly foreigners facing religious persecution in three neighboring countries to get Indian citizenship. It reinforces the principle of Indian society value of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
  • Northeast India is excluded from application of the Act which is the acknowledgement of the uniqueness of the demography. This leads to more integration of Northeast India with the mainland India.
  • It is relevant for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian foreigners, who have migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan into India up to 31.12.2014, on account of persecution faced by them due to their religion. Thus, they are welcomed in Indian society which is tolerant and syncretic.


  • Open Pandora’s Box: India is a land of cultural diversity thus any positive discrimination towards any community raises demand of others and there is no dearth of sectarian persecution in South Asia. Example: Rohingya, Ahmadiyas and Uyghur.
  • Secular Credentials of the Nation: Hindu – Muslim relations have roots in history, thus decisions are seen through the majority/minority and secularism prism.
  • Differential Treatment Threatens Social Integration: It provides differential treatment to illegal migrants on the basis of (a) their country of origin, (b) religion, (c) date of entry into India, and (d) place of residence in India.Muslims fear that if a nationwide Nation at Register of Citizens (NRC) is brought to life and they fail to furnish their documents to prove their citizenship, they would face religious persecution and would be uprooted from the country.
  • Law and Order Issue: The misinformation being spread through social media and the gagging order of government is ceding space to the miscreants and fear-mongers.
  • National Security Threat: Alienation of Muslims is a potent recipe for national security disaster. With the rise of Pan-Islamic beliefs in the recent years, political ideology across the world has advocated unity of Muslims, regardless of ethnicity. Given these circumstances, the perceived exclusion of Muslims would trigger sentiments outside India too.

National Population Register (NPR)

  • NPR contains a list of all residents, who have lived at a locality for at least the last six months and plans to stay in that area for the next six months or more.
  • Prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, it is mandatory for every “usual resident” of India to register in the NPR.
  • The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars. Demographic details required will include your name, parents name, spouse’s name,sex, date of birth, place of birth, nationality (as declared), permanent and current address (if they differ) duration of stay at present address, occupation and educational qualifications.
  • NPR exercise will be carried out from April to September ‘2020’ in all the states and union territories except Assam, simultaneously along with the Census under the aegis of the Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India.
  • NPR data will be used for identifying the beneficiaries of subsidies.
  • No documents will be required for NPR as self-declaration will be treated as enough for data entry in the population registrar.
  • Previously conducted in 2010 and 2015, the NPR was first authorised in 2004 by the UPA government after an amendment to the 1955 Citizenship Act which allowed the centre to “compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue ‘a’ national identity card”. Between 2003 and 2009, a pilot project was implemented in select border areas. Over the next two years (2009-2011), NPR was also carried out in coastal areas - it was used to enhance security after the Mumbai attacks - and Resident Identity Cards were issued to nearly 66 lakh residents.

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

  • NRC is a database of Indian citizens. The NRC process demands proof of citizenship from the respondents failing to provide which they may face deportation or detention in the long run.

Way Forward

  • National unity and integrity are supreme values and any act intended to unify society should be welcomed.
  • Communal harmony is the basic structure of the Constitution and citizens have an obligation to acknowledge and respect that.
  • Positive discrimination should not be seen through prism of secularism or negligence towards others communities.
  • Judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and in case of conflicts, justice delivery should be left to courts as it is its sole prerogative.
  • The present legal process of acquiring Indian citizenship by any foreigner of any category through Naturalization (Section 6 of the Citizenship Act) or through Registration (Section 5 of the Act) stays operational. If found eligible, all such future migrants shall also get Indian citizenship, irrespective of their numbers or religion. In 2014, after the settlement of Indo-Bangladesh boundary issues, 14,864 Bangladeshi citizens were given Indian Citizenship when their enclaves were incorporated into the territory of India. Majority of these foreigners were Muslims.
  • In a democracy, it is the legitimate right of the citizens to express their views and that also includes the right to dissent. In the current scenario, the widespread outrage of people should not only be treated as a law and order issue to be muzzled with excessive force but there should rather be continuous efforts from the government to outreach people to mitigate their fears and concerns. Thus, debate, deliberation and discussions should become the way forward.