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Lok Sabha passes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amidst intense debate

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The Lok Sabha has passed The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after hours of long debate. The legislation seeks to give non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan citizenship in the country.

 

The bill was passed by 311-80 votes.

 

The legislation is applicable to groups who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.

 

The Bill also makes amendments to provisions related to OCI-(Overseas Citizen of India) cardholders. A foreigner may register as an OCI under the 1955 Act if they are of Indian origin (e.g., former citizen of India or their descendants) or the spouse of a person of Indian origin. This will entitle them to benefits such as the right to travel to India, and to work and study in the country. The Bill amends the Act to allow cancellation of OCI registration if the person has violated any law notified by the central government.

 

The bill also exempts certain areas in the North-East from this provision.

 

The Bill says that on acquiring citizenship, a refugee shall be deemed to be citizens of India from the date of their entry into India, and all legal proceedings against them in respect of their illegal migration or citizenship will be closed.

 

The Bill says that the provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura, as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District. It will also not apply to the areas falling under the ‘Inner Line’ under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

 

The Inner Line Permit regulates visit of Indians to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

 

Home Minister Amit Shah while the debate repeatedly drew a distinction between refugees fleeing religious persecution and infiltrators.

 

The Bill does not violate any article of the Constitution. In the 3 countries we have included, Muslims are not a minority. If they were, we would have put them as well in the bill. It has the endorsement of 130cr citizens as it was part of BJP’s manifesto in 2014 as well as 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” said Amit Shah.

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