The Citizenship Bill and Art 14 | UPSC Law Optional Mains 2019 current affairs


WHAT IS CITIZENSHIP ? Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.

Citizenship in India is currently covered under two legislations:

  • Part II of the Constitution of India, 1950 and

  • the Citizenship Act, 1955.

However, neither of these legislations have defined citizenship clearly and only provide the prerequisites for a “natural” person to acquire Indian citizenship.

ORIGIN OF BILL : The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. The first draft of the updated list was concluded by December 31, 2017. The second draft is yet to be released.

  1. WHAT IS HAPPENING ? Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 is on discussion.

  2. WHAT IS THIS BILL ABOUT ? The Bill proposes to give citizenship to six persecuted minorities.

  3. WHO ARE THOSE MINORITIES ? Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists — from Pakistan.

OTHER CHANGES :

  • The third schedule of the 1955 Act is proposed to be amended to decrease the residence requirement from 11 years to six years.

  • OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card holders are susceptible to lose their status if they violate any laws of the country.

  • The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.

WHAT THE OPPOSITION DEMANDS ? The Opposition members have been demanding that the Bill should be made “religion and country” neutral.

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AIM OF CITIZENSHIP BILL : With The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the government plans to change the definition of illegal migrants .

ILLEGAL MIGRANTS : According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant is one who enters India without a valid passport or with forged documents. Or, a person who stays beyond the visa permit - from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction.

POINT TO NOTE : The Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.

THE ISSUE : The bill grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees persecuted in neighbouring countries – BUT - NRC (National Register of Citizens (NRC) is meant to identify a bona fide citizen) does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. NRC have to consider deporting anyone who has entered the State illegally post-March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion. This puts NRC in contra with the bill. Further the Muslim migrants are not recognized under the bill.

RESULT : If the Bill becomes an Act, the non-Muslims need not go through any such process, meaning this will be clearly discriminating against Muslims identified as undocumented immigrants.

LEGAL ISSUES :

1. UNREASONABLE TO TAKE ILLEGAL MIGRANTS : The relaxation criteria for eligibility of illegal migrants to gain citizenship is unreasonable.

With no explanation given as to the inclusion of this clause, it is prima facie unconstitutional, failing the test of reasonability contained in Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution and corrupting the “basic structure doctrine” # Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala 1973

2. FURTHER UNREASONABLE TO FAVOUR ILLEGAL MIGRANTS BASED ON RELIGION WITHOUT REASONABLE CLASSIFICATION : This bill fails the test of reasonable classification as set out in Article 14 of the Constitution.

THE TEST : The two-fold test relies on two principles, that is, reasonable classification and nexus between the object sought to be achieved and the legislation # State of Madras v V G Row 1952.

  • If we test this bill on reasonable classification, it fails, as at present, it excludes illegal immigrants only on religious grounds, with no reasonable explanation.

  • The next test is on object sought to be achieved. Putting a qualification based on religion has no rational nexus to achieve that object; unless the object is to project India as a Hindu state.

EXPECTED QUESTIONS : UPSC LAW OPTIONAL MAINS 2019

  1. X a secular state and it passes an Act to provide citizenship for illegal migrants of specified religion only – discuss the constitutional validity of such Act .

  2. Does the doctrine of equality promised under Art 14 extends to illegal migrants of a country ? Discuss with recent issues.

  3. “Granting citizenship is the sovereign authority of the state and it completely lies at its discretion “ – Analyze the legality of the statement.

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