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Since the passage of the citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by Lok Sabha many questions have been raised about its constitutionality particularly when the said amendment is focused to give the benefit to illegal migrants belonging to particular religion communities.

Before looking into the amendment deeply and before knowing the meaning of the illegal migrants. First we need understand how Indian citizenship can be acquired.

There are three ways to acquire the citizenship of India under the citizenship Act, 1955 .These are:

  1. One takes birth in the country
  2. One having resided in the country over a period of time.

This is citizenship by naturalization. Under this clause the applicant must have resided in India during last 12 months and for 11 of the last 14 years. The bill relaxes this 11years to 6 years for person belonging to 6 religions (Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan).

Illegal migrants cannot acquire citizenship .Illegal migrants are those:

  1. Who enters in the country without valid travel documents
  2. Who enters with valid documents but stays beyond the permitted period of time.

Under the foreigners Act, 1196 and passport entry into India Act, 1920 illegal immigrants may be imprisoned or deported. The central government notification exempts six minorities (Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan).

These groups of illegal migrants cannot be imprisoned or deported for not having valid papers. Citizenship (amendment) Bill2016 seeks to grants them citizenship in India in the basis of naturalization by further reducing the time from 11 year to 6 year.

In all the above legal charges two communities are left behind i.e. Muslims and Jews. Which means if they are illegal migrants then still they can be deported or imprisoned. Article 14 of our constitution gives right to equality which includes in itself all citizen and foreigners both. The question is –Will the amendment in the citizenship act pass the test of equality when the differentiation between the illegal migrants on the basis of religion. Especially when no rationale can be seen behind the said classification or should we say no rationale can be seen behind the said discrimination.

Direct conflict with the Assam Accord
The proposed amendment may be in conflict with Assam accord .the accord was signed to protect the social, cultural and linguistic identity of the Assamese people. It states that foreigner who has entered Assam from Bangladesh after 25th March, 1971, will be detected and expelled. Hence there may be the cases under the accord related to persons belonging to minority communities. However, they would be deemed as legal migrants on enactment of the bill .

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