Citizenship Amendment Act Rules Notified After 4 Years: What do They Mean?

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde says CAA is "unconstitutional" & exclusionary by design. But, how? Let's get into it.

4 min read

Four years after it was passed, the BJP-led government has now notified the rules for the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019. This comes ahead of the general elections to be held next month.

Few days later after the notification, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while speaking to ANI said, "This is our sovereign right to ensure Indian citizenship in our country. We will never compromise on it and CAA will never be taken back."

But what do the notified CAA rules really mean? Whom does it help? Moreover, when it comes to the criticism, why is the Act called 'anti-Muslim' in nature? The Quint breaks it down in this piece.

First things first, a refresher on what the CAA stands for.

The CAA seeks to fast-track citizenship for Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who came to India on or before 31 December 2014 from these 3 countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This is the Section 6B added to the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde says CAA is "unconstitutional" & exclusionary by design. But, how? Let's get into it.

Section 6B of CAA.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)


The CAA amended the Citizenship Act, 1955, which provides five paths to citizenship:

  • By birth;

  • By descent;

  • By naturalisation;

  • By registration;

  • By acquisition of territory

Previously, citizenship would be awarded to someone living in India for 11 years. But with the Act, the time has been reduced to 5 years for the specific sections mentioned earlier.

'The Timing is Questionable'

The Opposition has also criticised the timing as the rules were notified when all eyes were on the SBI’s response on the Electoral Bonds issue. The SBI's data on electoral bonds was released on 14 March. You can read our reports here.

Senior Advocate Anas Tanwir said, "The timing of the CAA rules notified is definitely questionable. Managing the headlines with regards to the electoral bonds case. It took them 4 years, it looks like something which is being done for the upcoming elections."

Tanwir added, "What the CAA provides is already provided in the amendment in the passport rules that happened prior to CAA and the government must answer the number of people who have applied under the citizenship under passport rules already."

Now, coming to the rules. Here’s what we know.

  • Applications for citizenship as per Section 6B will be made online through the portal

  • The Empowered Committee will then examine these applications through the District Level Committee.

Moreover, additional documents are also needed from the applicant such as the following:

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde says CAA is "unconstitutional" & exclusionary by design. But, how? Let's get into it.

Documents need to be filed by the applicant.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde says CAA is "unconstitutional" & exclusionary by design. But, how? Let's get into it.

Documents need to be filed by the applicant.

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Since the the rules were notified, anti-CAA protests have also broken out in Assam. Students from Universities such as Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Maulana Azad National Urdu University have also marked their protest since the notification. 

Three chief ministers, namely Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s MK Stalin have condemned the CAA and stated that they refuse to implement them in their respective states.

While Vijayan and Banerjee said CAA “divides people and undermines basic principles of the Constitution,” Stalin also added that it goes against the “Sri Lankan Tamils living in refugee camps in Tamil Nadu.”


'CAA Is Designed to Exclude'

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde stated the Act is "unconstitutional" and the petitions in the case are pending in the Supreme Court. He added that with the rules, only the Act has been operationalised.

"If you start discrimination at the stage of application, then it will soon lead to possible discrimination in Citizenship itself. This is an extra procedure which is designed to exclude. It is the basic design of exclusion to which people object."
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde to The Quint

On the other hand, Advocate Aman Wadud who has fought over 500 citizenship cases, stated that "the sole basis to exclude Muslims because that they are not persecuted in the countries, is an argument that does not hold any water."

Highlighting that neither the Act nor the rules mention or describe "religious persecution," Wadud is of the view that it does not help NRC-excluded Hindus either.

"How is a person a Hindu who applied for NRC in 2015, submitting document prior to 1971, claiming he/she is a citizen of India. Now they will have to say that 'I was a citizen of Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh' and that's why give me the citizenship under CAA. Now, this is the mother of all ironies. In NRC, you need to prove your Indianness, in CAA you need to prove your non-Indianness."
Advocate Aman Wadud to The Quint

PIB Press Release Goes 'Missing'

On the evening of 12 March, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) posted a press release titled that went missing from their website shortly after.

Titled “Positive Narrative on Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019” the statement asserted that the citizenship of Muslims in India would not be affected by CAA.

  • Press release by PIB.

    (Photo: Screenshots from the release)

However, it is unclear why the release is now unavailable.

As we wait to see how this will play out in the general elections, some questions on CAA that are yet to be answered are:

  • Why are Sri Lankan Tamils, Tibetan Buddhists, Rohingya Muslims and Jews excluded from CAA?

  • Why are Shias and Ahmadis from Pakistan and Bangladesh or persecuted ethnic minorities from Afghanistan not included?

  • Why is ‘religious persecution’ not mentioned or defined under the law?

  • If the objective is to help people from neighbouring countries, why does it restrict itself to only three neighbouring countries, and not Sri Lanka, China or Myanmar?

  • What about orphans, how should they prove their citizenship status of their parents?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mamata Banerjee   Amit Shah   Pakistan 

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