MHA seeks six more months for CAA rules
The ministry of home affairs (MHA) informed parliament on Tuesday it has sought six more months to frame rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA, a law which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
This is the fifth extension sought by the government for framing rules for a controversial law that resulted in widespread protests after it was passed in December 2019. It came into effect from January 2020.
In response to a question from Congress Member of Parliament Gaurav Gogoi, union minister of state (home affairs) Nityanand Rai said in Lok Sabha: “The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) has been notified on December 12, 2019 and has come into force w.e.f. January 10, 2020,” the minister said.
“The Committees on Subordinate Legislation, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have been requested to grant further extension of time up to January 9, 2022 to frame the rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” Rai said.
Gogoi is a Lok Sabha member from Assam where the law has been widely opposed -- even the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been nuanced in its response -- because of fears that it could legitimise the rights of outsiders. Assam saw a long agitation between 1979 and 1985 over the presence of illegal foreigners that ended with the signing of the Assam Accord which decided that any foreigner who entered the state after March 25, 1971 would be deported. CAA gave a different deadline, leading to protests against it. Elsewhere in the country, people protested the law because it excludes Muslims. There were also fears that it would be used along with a nation-wide National Register of Citizens to target Muslims. However, home minister Amit Shah had dismissed the allegations and described the protests against the CAA as “mostly political”. He had asserted that no Indian will lose citizenship due to the Act.
The manual on Parliamentary Work states that in case ministries or departments are not able to frame the rules within the prescribed period of six months after the President signs off on a law, “they should seek extension of time from the Committee on Subordinate Legislation stating reasons for such extension” which cannot be more than for a period of three months at a time.
The government has claimed that while the rules are being framed, non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will have to provide proof of their religious beliefs while applying for citizenship.
Applicants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Buddhist, Jain or Parsi faiths will also have to furnish documents to prove that they entered India on or before December 31, 2014, according to home ministry officials.
Human rights activist, Harsh Mander said, “It’s quite apparent that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed this law in such a hurry without knowing how to implement it. They know they will be angering large number of people in the north east if they implement it, and if they don’t, they will lose the vote-bank of Bengali Hindus.”