Citizenship (Amendment) Act Rules silent on fate of rejected applicants

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) Rules, notified earlier this month, are silent regarding any review process for applications rejected by the empowered committees with the final authority to accord citizenship under the Act.

Background:

  • On March 11, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notified the Citizenship Amendment Rules, 2024, which enabled the implementation of the CAA that Parliament passed in December 2019.
    • It amended the Citizenship Act 1955 to fast-track citizenship through registration and naturalisation to undocumented migrants from six non-Muslim communities — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, reducing their qualifying period from the existing 11 years to just five years.
  • According to the Rules, the applicant must declare the country they belong to along with their “date of entry into India” and upload any of the nine documents issued by government authorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh on the citizenship portal to support their claim.

What happens after a citizenship application is uploaded online?

Issues and Concerns:

  • Worrying ambiguity: The ambiguity surrounding the rejection of applications poses concerns, particularly for the Matua community in West Bengal, which benefits from the CAA’s provision of fast-tracked citizenship.
    • Lakhs of people belonging to the Scheduled Caste community migrated from Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan) before and after the 1971 war with Pakistan.
    • Many came without any papers but subsequently acquired all documents proving their Indian citizenship, such as passports and voter identity cards.
    • If an application is rejected, people may end up in detention centres.
  • Review by same authority: The parent law, the Citizenship Act 1955, says that the applicant may file a review application before the Central government within 30 days, and the Central Government's decision on such review shall be final.
    • The same authority, the empowered committee (as per Section 15 A of the Act), will review the rejection.
      • However, a writ petition can be filed before the High Court if the review is rejected.
  • Gaps in the rules: The Rules do not specify the measures to take if an application is rejected.
    • However, applicants who came through the legal route, even if their documents, such as passports and visas, expired, have received confirmation that their applications have been accepted.
  • Documents essential: Though the CAA was envisaged for undocumented migrants from the six communities from the three neighbouring countries, the Rules indicate that documents are essential.
    • However, the Union Home Minister said that the government would soon find a way for people who do not have the required documents to apply under CAA; according to him, 85% of applicants possess all the requisite documents.

Way forward:

  • Implementing the CAA requires clear guidelines, transparent processes, and mechanisms to address the concerns of affected communities and individuals.
  • Clarity on rejected applications, accommodation for those lacking documentation, and safeguards against statelessness are crucial for a fair and inclusive implementation.