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The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by Parliament. The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired.  It provides for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of territory into India.   Key features of the Bill include:

  • Definition of illegal migrants:  The Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship.   Illegal migrants are those foreigners who do not have valid passport or travel documents.  The Bill amends the Act to provide that that the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, will not be treated as illegal migrants.  

  • Citizenship by naturalisation:  The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation if he has resided in India or has been in central government service for at least 11 years before applying for citizenship.  For Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the Bill reduces the residency requirement from 11 years to five years.  

  • The provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.  These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), and Tripura Tribal Areas District.  Further, it will not apply to the “Inner Line” areas notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  In these areas, visits by Indians are regulated through the Inner Line Permit.   Currently, this permit system is applicable to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.  

  • Cancellation of registration of OCIs:  Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) are entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi-purpose lifelong visa to visit India.  The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on certain grounds. These include: (i) if the OCI has registered through fraud, or (ii) if within five years of registration, the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more.  The Bill adds one more ground for cancellation, that is, if the OCI has violated the provisions of the Act or of any other law notified by the government.