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The Constitutional Case against the Citizenship Amendment Bill

The Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on 8 January 2019. In fact, the central government had started taking small and discreet steps towards the enactment and implementation of the law since 2015 itself. The bill violates the Constitution because the classification it adopts is manifestly arbitrary and unjustified. Citizenship law defines a country’s political and constitutional identity. Laying down rules that determine membership in our political community only on the basis of one’s religious beliefs completely violates this principle.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 under the shadow of immense opposition and protest.1 The proposed amendment seeks to make non-Muslim illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh eligible for citizenship. While its fate in the Rajya Sabha may be uncertain, there is a lurking possibility of it coming into effect as an ordinance.

Even before its introduction in Parliament, the central government had started taking small and discreet steps towards its operationalisation. In September 2015, the government, through an executive order, exempted non-Muslim illegal migrants from the three countries from the operation of the Foreigners Act, 1946.2 This provided immunity to this class of migrants from any adverse action by the state due to illegal entry and stay. On 23 October 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a directive that provided a separate and accelerated process for non-Muslim legal migrants from the three countries to get citizenship. The directive extended this policy that was already in place since 2016.3

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Updated On : 18th Jan, 2019

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