Pradeep K Khatana
STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS
1. The Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955) was enacted to provide for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship.
2. It is a historical fact that trans-border migration of population has been happening continuously between the territories of India and the areas presently comprised in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths were staying in the said areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh when India was partitioned in 1947. The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted. Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents.
3. Under the existing provisions of the Act, migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who entered into India without valid travel documents or if the validity of their documents has expired are regarded as illegal migrants and ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship under section 5 or section 6 of the Act.
4. The Central Government exempted the said migrants from the adverse penal consequences of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946 and rules or orders made thereunder vide notifications, dated 07.09.2015 and dated 18.07.2016. Subsequently, the Central Government also made them eligible for long term visa to stay in India, vide, orders dated 08.01.2016 and 14.09.2016. Now, it is proposed to make the said migrants eligible for Indian Citizenship.
5. The illegal migrants who have entered into India up to the cut of date of 31.12.2014 need a special regime to govern their citizenship matters. For this purpose the Central Government or an authority specified by it, shall grant the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation subject to such conditions, restrictions and manner as may be prescribed. Since many of them have entered into India long back, they may be given the citizenship of India from the date of their entry in India if they fulfill conditions for Indian citizenship specified in section 5 or the qualifications for the naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Act.
6. The Bill further seeks to grant immunity to the migrant of the aforesaid Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities so that any proceedings against them regarding in respect of their status of migration or citizenship does not bar them from applying for Indian citizenship. The competent authority, to be prescribed under the Act, shall not take into account any proceedings initiated against such persons regarding their status as illegal migrant or their citizenship matter while considering their application under section 5 or section 6 of the Act, if they fulfil all the conditions for grant of citizenship.
7. Many persons of Indian origin including persons belonging to the said minority communities from the aforesaid countries have been applying for citizenship under section 5 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 but they are unable to produce proof of their Indian origin. Hence, they are forced to apply for citizenship by naturalisation under section 6 of the said Act, which, inter alia, prescribe twelve years residency as a qualification for naturalisation in terms of the Third Schedule to the Act. This denies them many opportunities and advantages that may accrue only to the citizens of India, even though they are likely to stay in India permanently. Therefore, it is proposed to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make applicants belonging to the said communities from the aforesaid countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation if they can establish their residency in India for five years instead of the existing eleven years.
8. Presently, there is no specific provision in section 7D of the Act to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder who violates any provisions of the Act or any other law for the time being in force. It is also proposed to amend the said section 7D so as to empower the Central Government to cancel registration as Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder in case of violation of any provisions of the Act or any other law for the time being in force.
9. Since there is no specific provision in the Act at present to provide an opportunity of being heard to the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder before cancellation of the Overseas Citizen of India Card under section 7D, it is proposed to provide the opportunity of being heard to the Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder before the cancellation of the Overseas Citizen of India Card.
10. The Bill further seeks to protect the constitutional guarantee given to indigenous populations of North Eastern States covered under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the statutory protection given to areas covered under "The Inner Line" system of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
11. The Bill seeks to achieve the above objectives.