No refugees belonging to Hindu and other five communities coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be given Indian citizenship automatically but only after fulfilling the necessary criteria, a senior home ministry official said on Monday.
The clarification on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act came amidst widespread protests in different parts of the country against the legislation.
“The new act does not mean that all refugees or illegal immigrants getting Indian citizenship automatically. They have to apply for citizenship which will be processed by the competent authority.
“The applicant concerned will be given Indian citizenship only after fulfilling the required criteria,” the official said.
The central government will frame rules to operationalise the provisions of the CAA.
“No migrant from these communities will become Indian citizen automatically. He will have to apply online and the competent authority would see whether he fulfils all the qualifications for registration or naturalisation as Indian citizen,” the official said.
According to the act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
The act says the refugees of the six communities will be given Indian citizenship after residing in India for five years, instead of 11 years earlier.
The Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for acquisition, determination and termination of Indian citizenship. Citizenship of India can be acquired by birth (Section-3), by descent (Section 4), by registration (Section 5), or by naturalisation (Section 6) or by incorporation of territory (section 7).
Any foreigner on becoming eligible can acquire citizenship by registration or by naturalisation irrespective of his country or community.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act enables migrants or foreigners of six minority communities from three specified countries who have come to India because of persecution on grounds of their religion to apply for Indian citizenship.
It does not amend any existing legal provision, which enables any foreigner of any class, creed, religion, category to apply for Indian citizenship through registration or naturalisation modes.
Such a foreigner has to become eligible to apply for citizenship after fulfilling the minimum legal requirements, the official explained.
The CAA does not apply to Indian citizens and they are completely unaffected by it as it seeks to grant Indian citizenship to particular foreigners who have suffered persecution on grounds of their religion in the three neighbouring countries.
Another official said the citizenship (amendment) bill had been in the public domain since 2016 and it was cleared by a 30-member parliamentary committee consisting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members.
The present act is broadly based on the same bill.
By amending the appropriate rules during 2015-16, the government had already legalised entry as well as stay of such foreign migrants belonging to six minority communities from these three countries who had come into India up to December, 2014 because of persecution on grounds of religion.