Opinion Piece on the Citizenship Amendment 2019

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

With over 100 petitions filed in the honourable Supreme Court including some by State governments and a number of protests covered heavily by the media as well as print, the Citizenship Amendment Act has been one the most controversial laws in modern India. Having said this going further I shall attempt to remove all dubiety attached to the law and make an effort to analyse it on the basis of the Constitution, Human Rights and General Ethics.

Prior to the 2019 law, any undocumented persons entering India without their paper in order were deemed illegal immigrants with an exception being created by virtue of a 2011 SOP issued by the Ministry Of Home Affairs according to which if such a persons are able to prove persecution in their home territory on the basis of religion, ethnicity, race etc. they were granted a long term visa to stay in India and their cases would be evaluated on a case to case basis.

However, now the CAA 2019 completely changes the existing paradigm as it creates a class for certain communities to be granted autonomic immunity and creates a fast track system to gain citizenship for such communities. The Act puts forward 3 different requirements which is as follows –

Nationality – Persons belonging to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Religion – Persons must be either Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian

Time – Persons who came on or before December 24th, 2014

Simply a cursory look at the above requirements show that law isn’t altogether applicable to persons who are now looking to flee these countries but rather it creates a distinction between the immigrants already in India giving one category an unfair advantage. Further, the three conditions lead to a vast number of problems; firstly, the three countries mentioned in the amendment are not the only neighbours to India to have rampant persecution.

Taking the example of Tamilians in Sri Lanka who face widespread attacks and many of whom have now fled to India. Another daunting illustration is the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who are not only being persecuted but are facing a genocide. Thus as we can see the three conditions put together are creating an arbitrary class and eliminating many communities in desperate need for protection, a major objection also arises from the basis of this class (I argue is arbitrary) is religion and in a secular country, a category formed on the basis of religion which leads to a disbalance in treatment and grant of rights simply cannot stand.

Another argument put forward by the government states that the CAA will have no effect upon Indian citizens, however, it does affect persons residing in India and the Constitution particularly Article 14 clearly applies to everyone and not just states and therefore any being denied their right to equality before law hold a claim to challenge under Article 14 irrespective of their citizenship.

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