Parliament Debates Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Who Said What?
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bharadwaj
It was Home Minister Amit Shah vs the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was introduced on Monday, 9 December. Before the Bill was introduced, the House debated on the legislative competence of the Lok Sabha to debate the Bill.
Opposition leaders like Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Trinamool Congress’ Saugata Roy and AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi opposed the introduction of the Bill, by arguing that it violates fundamental articles of the Constitution, like Article 14.
After a debate on the introduction, the Bill was introduced through a vote. Here’s what the main arguments were.
(Catch LIVE updates on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill’s progress in Parliament here.)
Amit Shah Introduces the Citizenship Amendment Bill
The day in Lok Sabha began with Home Minister Amit Shah presenting the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While presenting the Bill, he argued that the legislation is not anti-minority.
Targeted Legislation: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress
The Lok Sabha proceedings began with a debate on whether the Bill should be introduced in the Lok Sabha. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury argued that the Bill is “a regressive and targeted legislation.”
Divisive & Unconstitutional: Saugata Roy, TMC
Article 14 was a common invocation by Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha as they argued against the introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. TMC leader Saugata Roy caused a stir when he said that the Home Minister is "unaware of the rules of the House" since he is new to the Lok Sabha. His statement caused an uproar on the Treasury benches. Roy argues that the Bill was divisive and unconstitutional. He also made a comparison between the abrogation of Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), saying that abrogation promised "one nation" but the CAB excludes areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
‘Include Them, It Will Send An Inclusive Message’
An ally of the BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sukhbir Singh asked the government to send an “inclusive message” by including Muslims.
Assault on Foundational Values of Republic: Shashi Tharoor, Congress
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor submitted a notice opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, arguing that it “violates” the right to equality and Article 14 of the Constitution. He submitted this notice under Rule 72 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.
Secularism is Part of Basic Structure of India: Asaduddin Owaisi, AIMIM
In a controversial speech, AIMIM chief Asadudding Owaisi opposed the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, even comparing the legislation to Nuremberg race laws and Isreal’s citizenship act. His remarks were deemed ‘unparliamentary language’ by the Speaker and expunged from the record.
Bill Violates Assam Accord: Gaurav Gogoi, Congress
One of the few voices from the Northeast which spoke against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Gaurav Gogoi from the Congress argued that the Bill violates protective articles for the Northeast. Under the Bill, areas under the Sixth Schedule would be exempted, which has prompted protests in Guwahati and Imphal in the last week.
Against Secular Fabric of India: NK Premachandran, Revolutionary Socialist Party
Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) NK Premachandran said that the Bill violates the “basic structural features of the Constitution envisioned in the Preamble.”
Doesn’t Violate Article 14, Reasonable Grounds for Classification: Amit Shah
After a vociferous debate, Home Minister Amit Shah responded to Opposition leaders and their criticisms. He argued that the Citizenship Amendment Bill doesn’t violate Article 14. He made this argument on the basis of the exception of “reasonable grounds for classification.” He argued that with this Bill, persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh would be able to accrue citizenship. He said that such a Bill had historic precedence.
On the issue of discrimination against Muslims, he argues that Muslims from the three countries under the Bill can apply for citizenship according to the rules of the country. However, the benefits of the Bill are not applicable to them, because they haven’t been persecuted in the three countries.
After the debate, the introduction of the Bill was put to a vote and was passed with 293 'ayes' and 82 'noes'
The Debate Begins
The debate on the provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill began after an interval. Starting the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah exhorted political parties to “rise above ideologies” to support the Bill.
Citing the aftermath of the 1971 war and the influx of refugees from Uganda, he said that this Bill is not the first time that concessions have been made to refugees coming to India. Shah also asserted that “this is a Bill to give people’s rights, not to take away rights.”
In an important statement, he also alluded to the reduction in minimum residency under the Bill to six years as enabling refugees to be on the voters’ list by 2020; that is, in time for the 2024 elections.
Before the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha, north-eastern states had raised concerns about the Bill, especially Manipur. Addressing these concerns, Home Minister Amit Shah said that Manipur will be included in the Inner Liner Permit, and hence, allowing the state to be exempt from the Bill.
Congress Hits Back on Shah’s Partition Comment
Manish Tewari spoke on behalf of the Congress, arguing that the Bill goes against the principle of non-refoulement in customary international law, “by filtering refugees based on religion.” Referring to the Keshavananda Bharati and SR Bommai cases, he also argued that secularism is “a basic feature of the Constitution” and the Bill is against this “basic feature.”
Tewari also said that, “We are not against refugees. We want the government to come up with a comprehensive law on refugees, without basis of religion.”
Earlier in the day, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the Congress is responsible for the Partition. Responding to that, Manish Tewari responded, “If someone kept the foundation of the two-nation theory, it was Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar.”
‘Is it a Crime to be a Muslim?’ DMK Against
DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran rose in opposition to the Bill and called the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill “half-hearted” and demanded why Sri Lanka was not in the Bill.
‘Will be Disastrous’: TMC Opposes
Abhishek Banerjee, on the behalf of TMC, argued against the Bill.
YSRCP Supports the Bill
How Much Will Our Population Increase? Shiv Sena Questions
JDU Comes Out in Support
BSP Opposes the Bill
‘Not Convinced by Home Minister’: NCP Opposes the Bill
SAD Demands Inclusion of Ahmadis
Why Do You Hate Muslims, Asks AIMIM
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