Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Feb 14th, 2021 | by  malvika singhal


The whole world runs on the ancient concepts of sustainable rights, equality, liberty, and freedom. These rights can be only exercised if one is a citizen of any country. Citizenship plays an important role in making a person entitled to all those rights. Without citizenship, there is no home and without a home, there is no peaceful life. In India, the citizenship given to persons is governed by The Citizenship Act, 1955. The Act states that every person who was a resident of India at the time when the Constitution came into force and every person born here will be a citizen of India. According to this Act, the President of India is the first citizen of India. Article 5 to Article 11 of the Constitution are the governing provisions for citizenship. The Act has been amended various times over the years. The 2003 Amendment mandated that the government should maintain a National Register of Citizens or NRC. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register of all Indian citizens whose creation is mandated by the 2003 Amendment of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Its purpose is to document all the legal citizens of India so that the illegal immigrants can be identified and deported. It has been implemented for the state of Assam starting in 2013-2014. 

The Government of India plans to implement it for the rest of the country in 2021. In 2019 the Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended again. NRC and CAA have become topics of controversy since the bill was passed in the parliament creating a lot of questions in the minds of different sections of the society.

Back to Basics - What led to the amendment of 2019?

1. Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955 provides five ways of getting Indian citizenship. These are governed by section 3- 7 of the Act. The 5 ways are as follows:

  • By birth
  • By decent 
  • By registration
  • By naturalization
  • By incorporation in Indian territory

2. Any person who enters the territory of India without a valid passport or other required documents or overstays the said time limit is said to be an illegal immigrant.

3. The recent amendment was required in order to give legal citizenship to a particular class of illegal migrants. The cases of prosecution of minorities in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh increased in the last few years. In order to protect themselves from such exploitation, the minorities fled to India and such people cannot take citizenship under the old Act. Therefore, the amendment was required to make such prosecuted minorities citizens of India.

4. In 2016 the bill to amend The Citizenship Act was brought to change the definition of illegal immigrants. The Bill provided for citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who belonged to these religions: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, or Christian.

5. The Bill also reduced the number of continuous years of stay in India that is needed to get Citizenship by Naturalisation from eleven to six years. The Bill added one more ground for the cancellation of registration of Overseas Citizenship.

6. In 2019 finally the Bill was passed making the prosecuted minorities legal citizens of India who fled here on or before 31st December 2014 from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The Act gave citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Christian, and Buddhist religions owing to their minority status in those three countries. After this bill was passed in the parliament The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was born.


Why the amendment is being criticized?

There are two main reasons that affect various sections of society and that is why the Act was in debate. The reasons are as follows:

1. Dying secularism in India:

The Act provided for citizenship to prosecuted minorities that belong to six religious communities leaving the Muslims. The Act has left out the prosecuted Muslim minorities who came to India because of the same reason as the migrants from six stated religions. Also, the Act left out the Sri Lankan Tamils and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who face religious persecution in their countries. This has raised big questions on the secular state policy of India. When we talk about citizenship there arises a question of NRC as mandated in the 2003 amendment. NRC was done in Assam and around 19 lakh people living in Assam were not included in NRC. The main concern of the people protesting was that the new amendment will give citizenship to non-muslim communities taking away the citizenship of Muslims and the rest of the communities. These concerns aggravated the protests and criticism of CAA and NRC.

2. Danger to the special status of north-eastern states:

The north-eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram are included in the sixth schedule of the Constitution, and entering in these areas require an Inner Line Permit. But the concerns of the residents of these areas are that giving citizenship to illegal immigrants irrespective of their religious community in addition to the burden on the resources of these areas. It will also hamper the development, economy and other opportunities as well as threaten the culture of these states. However, the Act stated clearly that these areas have been left out and the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is not applicable. These areas can continue to have this special status and preserve their culture and resources.


The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 provides legal status to those who come to take shelter in India in times of dire need. Therefore, giving them status as citizens is not wrong. However, the concerns that are creating a lot of chaos should be resolved in order to fulfil the actual purpose of this amendment.




malvika singhal

malvika singhal

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