The district magistrates of 31 districts and the home secretaries of nine states have been given powers to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming to the country from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
According to the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for 2021-22, from April 1 to December 31, 2021, a total of 1,414 foreigners belonging to these minority communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were given Indian citizenship by registration or naturalisation under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
The move to grant Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming to the country from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and not under the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) bears significance.
The CAA also provides for granting Indian citizenship to these non-Muslims coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
However, the rules under the CAA have not been framed by the government yet and hence, no one so far has been granted Indian citizenship under it.
The annual report of the MHA said the Centre delegated its powers to grant Indian citizenship by registration or naturalisation in respect of foreigners belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Christian or Parsi communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to the collectors of 13 more districts and the home secretaries of two more states in 2021-22.
“With this, collectors of 29 districts and home secretaries of nine states have been authorised to grant citizenship in respect of the aforesaid category of migrants,” the report said.
The district magistrates of Gujarat’s Anand and Mehsana were also given similar powers last month.
The nine states where Indian citizenship by registration or naturalisation is given under the Citizenship Act, 1955 to non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra.
Interestingly, the authorities of none of the districts of Assam and West Bengal, where the issue is politically sensitive, has been given the powers so far.
The delegation of powers, the report said, will speed up the process of granting Indian citizenship to the aforesaid category of migrants as the decision would be taken at the local level.
“From April 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, a total of 1,414 citizenship certificates have been granted by all authorities including this ministry. Out of this, 1,120 were granted by registration under section 5 and 294 were granted by naturalisation under section 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955,” the report said.
Under the CAA, the Narendra Modi government wants to grant Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians — who came to India till December 31, 2014.
There were massive protests in some parts of the country after the CAA was passed by Parliament in December 2019 and the subsequent presidential nod.
More than a hundred people lost their lives during the protests or in police action.
However, the law is yet to be implemented as rules under the CAA are yet to be framed. Rules under a law have to be framed for its implementation.
According to the Manual on Parliamentary Work, the rules for any legislation should be framed within six months of the presidential assent or an extension has to be sought from the committees on subordinate legislation in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
In January 2020, the home ministry notified that the Act would come into force from January 10, 2020, but it later requested the parliamentary committees in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha to give it some more time to frame the rules as the country was going through its worst ever health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MHA was granted yet another extension last month by the parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha to frame the rules under the CAA.
While the permission was granted by the Rajya Sabha till December 31, 2022, the Lok Sabha granted time till January 9, 2023.
This was the seventh extension given to the MHA to frame the rules under the CAA.