Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, comes into force

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NEW DELHI | JAN 11, 2020:

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has come into force.

In the notification published in the Official Gazette today, the Central Government 'appoints' the 10th day of January, 2020, as the date on which the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, shall come into force.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on 10 December 2019. A day before, it was introduced in Lok Sabha, and a day later it was passed in Rajya Sabha. The President gave his assent on 12th December 2019 and it was notified on the Gazette the same day.

This amendment to Citizenship Act, 1955, liberalizes the grant of citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had entered India before December 31, 2014. As per proviso introduced in Section 2(1)(b), they will not be regarded as 'illegal migrants'. It also makes migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain and Christian religions from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan eligible for citizenship by naturalization if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of existing eleven years.

The Government is yet to frame Rules in this regard, detailing the procedure to be adopted by authorities, by amending Citizenship Rules, 2009. There were reports that a decision in this regard will be taken after seeking experts' advice.

Many individuals and political organisations have challenged the Constitutional Validity of the Act before the Supreme Court.

Indian Union Muslim League and its four MPs, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, Peace Party of India, Jan Adhikar Party, a former Indian Ambassador along with two retired IAS officers, All Assam Students Union, Assam Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia, Citizens Against Hate, Rihai Manch, Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, Kerala MLA T N Prathapan, "Makkal Needhi Maiam" of Kamal Hassan, United Against Hate, Tripura leader Pradyut Deb Barman, Assam Gana Parishad, Kerala Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, DYFI, DMK , civil rights activists Harsh Mander, Irfan Habib, Nikhil Dey & Prabhat Patnaik, Assam Jamait Ulema -E-Hind, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha etc are some of the petitioners.

The petitioners, in general, contend that the Act promotes a purely religious classification, which violates the fundamental constitutional value of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution. According to them, the exclusion of Muslims from the Act amounts to unreasonable classification but also violates secularism, which is a basic structure of the Constitution.

Last month, the Court had issued notice to the Centre in these petitions. The Court had also asked the Centre to file the response by the second week of January.w

Recently, the Kerala Legislative had passed a resolution requesting the Central Government to repeal the Act.