[Guest Post] SETTLING AMBIGUITY: FAQs ON CAA AND NRC by Ayush Shukla

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“It will be of little avail to the people if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”-          James Madison

On December 11, 2019, the Parliament of India has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. The Act is the result of the amendment in The Citizenship Act, 1955, and grants Indian Citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities that have entered India illegally i.e., without a visa, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh on or before 31st December 2014, and have stayed for 5 years. The act also states certain amendments to provisions related to OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) cardholders.

Origin of Citizenship Act
The Constitution of India initially at the time of commencement guaranteed citizenship to all of the country's nonemigrants, without making any distinction on the basis of religion. After the commencement of the Constitution in 1950, the Drafting Committee had not codified any permanent provisions related to citizenship and put this onus on Parliament. By using the powers of Article 10 and 11, the Indian Parliament had enacted Citizenship Act, 1955, the act mentioned four ways in which a person may be an Indian citizen i.e., by birth, by descent, by registration, and by naturalization. The Act stated two ways for noncitizens to acquire Indian citizenship. People from "undivided India" were given a means of registration after seven years of residency in India and those from other countries were given a means of naturalization after eleven years of residency in India. The Act stated the Illegal Immigrants as a person who enters India without a valid passport or stays in the country after the expiry of the visa permit, and the immigrant who uses fake documents for the immigration process.
A very large number of illegal immigrants, the largest numbers of whom are from Bangladesh, live in India. The Task Force on Border Management quoted the figure of 15 million illegal migrants in 2001. After this "detection, deletion and deportation" of these illegal migrants has been the agenda of the Government of India. The government passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, in December 2003 with some changes in the Citizenship Act by adding the term "illegal immigrants", and making them ineligible to apply for citizenship (by registration or naturalization), and declaring their children also as illegal immigrants. The Act also made it compulsory for the Government of India to create and maintain a National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Are CAA and NRC same?
No, CAA and NRC are two different concepts. CAA is a separate law and NRC is a separate process. The CAA come into force nationwide after its passage from Parliament, while the NRC rules and procedures for the country are yet to be decided.
The two have no connection as NRC is a count of actual Indian citizens. Except the state of Assam, this exercise has never been done anywhere in the country whereas, Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 grants “Indian Citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities that have entered India illegally i.e., without a visa, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh on or before 31st December 2014, and have stayed for 5 years”.
So, are the provisions of CAA open only to those who have been persecuted in the three countries, and why is the provision extended only to non-Muslims?
No, in the act itself the term ‘persecution’ has not been mentioned anywhere, and since there is no such criteria as persecution, it does not discriminate against any Muslim illegal immigrants from these three countries. In a debate Home Minister Amit Shah himself stated that “The bill has no provision to snatch citizenship from anyone but to grant citizenship to the refugees. There is no need for Indian Muslims to live in fear”. The provisions of the Act extended only to non-Muslims minorities, as the countries mentioned in the act are Muslim dominated countries, and Muslims are not the minorities in these countries.
By Conducting NRC, will we be asked to present proofs of us being Indian?
It is important to know that at the national level no such announcement has been made to begin NRC process, and if it is implemented, it does not mean that anyone will be asked for proof of being Indian. NRC is merely a process to register names in the Citizens register. Just like we present our identity card or any other document for registering in Voter list or getting Aadhar Card made, similar document shall need to be provided for NRC, as and when it is carried out.
Will one have to provide details of birth of parents etc. to prove Indian Citizenship?
No, it would be sufficient for one to provide the details of his/her birth only, but if one do not have the details of his/her birth, then he/she has to provide the same details about the parents.
Is it necessary to prove ancestry dating back before 1971?
No for pre- 1971 genealogy, one do not have to submit any type of identity card or any documents of ancestors. It is valid only for Assam NRC, based on ‘Assam Accord’ and the directive of the Honorable Supreme Court.
What if a person is illiterate and does not have relevant documents?

In this case the authorities will allow that person to bring a witness. Also, other evidence and community verification etc. will also be allowed.

There are a large number of people in India who do not have homes, are poor and are not educated and they do not even have any basis of identity. What about those people?

This is not entirely correct as such people vote on some basis and they also get the benefit of the welfare schemes of the Government. Their identity will be established on the basis of that.

How is citizenship decided? Will it be in the hands of Government?

Citizenship of any person is decided on the basis of the Citizenship Rules, 2009. These rules are based on the Citizenship Act, 1955. The rule is publicly in front of everyone. The five ways for any person to become a citizen of India are:
     ·         Citizenship by Birth
     ·         Citizenship by Descent
     ·         Citizenship by Registration
     ·         Citizenship by Naturalization
     ·         Citizenship by Incorporation
Does CAA contravenes Constitutional provisions?
The constitutional interpretation and exposition of Article 14 is well settled. The amendment does not violate Article 14. There is a reasonable, valid classification of persons of religious minorities in the three-named theocratic states who came to India before a cut-off date.
As per Article 15, the citizens of India cannot be discriminated by the State on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. Since CAA doesn’t have any link with the citizens of India, rather it aims to provide citizenship to those religious persecuted non-Muslim minorities who are not the citizens of India but are to be after getting citizenship under CAA, thus the Act. doesn’t violates Article 15.
The Constitutional provision of Article 21 states that no person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty except the procedure established by law, this legislation (CAA) is helping religious persecuted non-Muslim minorities by providing them citizenship with the liberty to live in any part India. Hence the act is not violating the said provisions of Article 21.
Conclusion-
By concluding this reading, I just want to mention that all the violence that we are witnessing has been given a political cover by various political parties for gaining maximum political capital from it. The CAA is perfectly legal and constitutional. Indian Muslims are not at all affected by the Citizenship Amendment Act or NRC. Therefore, this CAA does not relate to any Indian, even Muslims. It neither creates any citizenship to them nor takes it away.

To Know more about Introduction to Citizenship Laws and New Amendments in India. Read Here

References-
     ·         economictimes.indiatimes.com
     ·         www.indiatoday.in
     ·         www.gktoday.in
     ·         indianexpress.com

   About the Author- Mr. Ayush Shukla is a law student at SRMU, Lucknow. He can be reached at- [email protected] .alert-info

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