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Understanding the Citizenship Amendment Act for the UPSC Exam 2024

Understanding the Citizenship Amendment Act for the UPSC Exam 2024

  • April 25, 2024
  • Posted By : Oswaal Books

Citizenship Amendment Act

Context: This editorial is drawn from a news article published in The Hindu titled as “Citizenship Amendment Act rules notified, four years after the law was passed”. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the Citizenship Amendment Rules 2024, facilitating the enforcement of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed by the Parliament in 2019.

For Mains: The provisions, concerns, and potential solutions regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Who are ‘Citizens’?

●    Citizens are individuals who possess legal membership in a sovereign state or country, entitling them to certain rights, privileges, and responsibilities within that nation.

Constitutional Provisions for Citizenship:

●    The Constitution deals with citizenship from Articles 5 to 11 under Part II.

●    Indian citizenship can be acquired by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation or by incorporation of territory.

About Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 introduced changes to India’s citizenship laws, which have their foundation in the constitution under Articles 5-11 and the Citizenship Act of 1955. The 1955 Act outlined provisions for acquiring citizenship through birth, descent, registration, and naturalization.

Acquisition and Determination of Indian Citizenship

There are four ways in which Indian citizenship can be acquired: birth, descent, registration, and naturalization, as stipulated under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

By Birth:

●    Individuals born in India on or after January 26, 1950, but before July 1, 1987, are Indian citizens regardless of their parents’ nationality.

●    Those born in India between July 1, 1987, and February 2, 2004, are citizens if at least one parent is an Indian citizen.

●    Individuals born in India on or after December 3, 2004, are citizens if both parents are Indian citizens or if one parent is a citizen and the other is not an illegal migrant.

By Registration:

Citizenship can be acquired through registration, subject to certain conditions:

1.   Individuals of Indian origin who have been residents of India for at least 7 years before applying.

2.   Individuals of Indian origin residing outside undivided India.

3.   Individuals married to Indian citizens who have ordinarily been resident for 7 years before applying.

4.   Minor children of Indian citizens.

By Descent:

●    Individuals born outside India are citizens if their father was an Indian citizen by birth.

●    Individuals born outside India between December 10, 1992, and December 3, 2004, are citizens if either parent was an Indian citizen by birth.

●    For individuals born outside India after December 3, 2004, citizenship can be acquired if their parents declare that the minor does not hold a passport of another country and their birth is registered at an Indian consulate within a year of birth.

By Naturalization:

Citizenship can be acquired by naturalization if the individual has been ordinarily resident in India for 12 years (with 11 years in aggregate) preceding the application and fulfills the qualifications specified in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act.

The Act does not permit dual citizenship or nationality; it only allows citizenship acquisition through birth, descent, registration, or naturalization.


Key Features of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019


  • Amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Definition of Illegal Migrants:

  • An illegal migrant enters India without valid travel documents or stays beyond the permitted time, risking prosecution, deportation, or imprisonment.
  • Those belonging to the mentioned communities who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, are not considered illegal immigrants, hence offering them a path to naturalization.
  • It excludes provisions from the Muslim community.

Residency Requirement Relaxation:

  • Reduced the residency requirement from 11 years to 6 years for eligible communities to acquire Indian citizenship through naturalization.

Legal Relaxations:

  • Members of the mentioned communities are exempt from prosecution under the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the Passport Act of 1920.


  • Certain tribal areas (under Sixth Schedule) in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, as well as states regulated by the “Inner Line” permit under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation act of 1873, are excluded from the amendment.

The ILP is in place in parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur.


  • Autonomous councils- The exception applies to


Autonomous Council


1.   Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council

2.   Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council

3.   Bodoland Territorial Council


1.   Garo Hills Autonomous District Council

2.   Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council

3.   Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council


1.   Chakma Autonomous District Council

2.   Lai Autonomous District Council

3.   Mara Autonomous District Council


1.   Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council


Consequences of Citizenship Acquisition:

Individuals acquiring citizenship are deemed citizens of India from their entry date, and legal proceedings related to their illegal migration or citizenship are terminated.

OCI Registration Grounds for Cancellation:

The amendment includes violating a government-notified law as grounds for canceling Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) registration under the 1955 Act.

Supporting Arguments for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019

Historical Context:

  • Migration across the borders of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh has been an ongoing phenomenon before the Partition in 1947, affecting millions from diverse religious communities.
  • The CAA brings relief to those affected by the Partition who faced religious persecution after Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan became theocratic Islamic republics, making them religious minorities.

Humanitarian Grounds:

The CAA is justified on humanitarian grounds, offering refuge to religious minorities facing persecution based on their faith in theocratic neighboring states.

Civilizational Ethos:

India has historically been a sanctuary for persecuted minorities, and the CAA is consistent with the nation’s ethos of inclusivity and compassion.

Dignified life for refugees:

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would assist in eliminating legal obstacles to rehabilitation and citizenship, thereby affording a dignified life to refugees who have endured decades of suffering.

Safeguarding Rights:

Citizenship rights will preserve the cultural, linguistic, and social identity of refugees, while also guaranteeing their economic, commercial, freedom of movement, and property ownership rights.

Critique of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019:

Violation of Article 14:

The CAA is perceived as violating the fundamental right to equality and promoting anti-secular state action by differentiating citizenship based on religious grounds.

Violation of Secular Principles:

Incorporating religion as a criterion for citizenship eligibility contravenes the secular ethos, a foundational tenet of the Constitution.

Date of Entry Criteria:

The distinction between migrants who entered India before or after December 31, 2014, is criticized for lacking justification and being arbitrary.

Discrimination against Muslims:

Critics contend that the combination of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, designed to identify illegal immigrants, and the CAA, which grants citizenship to all illegal immigrants except Muslims, may lead to the marginalization and targeting of the Muslim community.

Concerns of North-Eastern States to preserve their Identity:

North-eastern states oppose the CAA due to concerns that illegal migrants could threaten their cultural and linguistic identity, as well as strain their resources and economic opportunities.

Violation of Assam Accord:

Protests in Assam cite the extension of the cut-off date for citizenship to illegal migrants as a violation of the Assam Accord. The CAA extends the cut-off date to December 31, 2014, from the original cut-off date of March 25,1971, specified in the Assam Accord.

 National Register of Citizens (NRC)

●    The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register that includes the names of all Indian citizens.

●    Currently, the NRC exists only in the state of Assam.

●    The NRC in Assam was first established in 1951 as a list of Indian citizens living in the state.

Assam Accord

●    Memorandum of Settlement: Signed on August 15, 1985, by the Union government, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad.

●    It brought an end to a six-year agitation initiated by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979, which demanded the identification and deportation of illegal immigrants from Assam.

●    One of the key provisions of the accord was the establishment of a cut-off date, set at midnight on 24th March 1971, for the detection of illegal foreigners in Assam.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rules notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2024 include the following provisions:

Establishment of a Dedicated Portal:

A dedicated online system has been set up for the application, processing, and granting of citizenship to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Eased Citizenship Requirements:

Members of the specified communities are granted citizenship without the requirement of a “valid passport” from their country of origin or a valid visa from India.

Eligible Applicants:

Eligible applicants encompass individuals of Indian origin, spouses of Indian citizens, minor children of Indian citizens, individuals with registered Indian citizen parents, and Overseas Citizens of India Cardholders, among others.

Application Process:

The application process mandates the submission of Form VIIIA, an affidavit, and a declaration of proficiency in an Eighth Schedule language.

Eligibility Certificate:

Applicants must obtain an eligibility certificate from a locally reputed community institution confirming their membership in one of the specified communities - Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian - and their continued affiliation with that community.

Visa Replacement:

A certificate issued by an elected member of a local body can serve as a replacement for a visa for eligible applicants.

Empowered Committee:

An Empowered Committee led by the Director (Census Operations) and comprising various officials will review and process the applications.

District-Level Committee:

A District-Level Committee headed by a Senior Superintendent or Superintendent of Post will be involved in the scrutiny process of the applications.

Oath of Allegiance:

Applicants must renounce their previous citizenship and take an oath of allegiance to India as part of the application process.

Way Forward


The government could consider reviewing and amending the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to remove the religious criterion for citizenship. This step would address concerns about discrimination and uphold the principle of secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Ensuring Equality:

Any new legislation or amendments should ensure equality before the law for all individuals, regardless of their religion. This would align with the constitutional guarantee of the right to equality and non-discrimination under Article 14.

Clarity in Legal Framework:

Ensure clarity and transparency in the legal framework governing citizenship issues. Clarifying the alignment of the CAA with existing agreements, such as the Assam Accord, through robust legal mechanisms and transparent processes is crucial for upholding the rule of law and restoring public confidence.

Engagement and Dialogue:

Foster inclusive engagement and meaningful dialogue with diverse stakeholders, including religious leaders, civil society organizations, and legal experts. This collaborative approach is essential for building consensus and addressing the multifaceted concerns surrounding the CAA.

In conclusion, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has sparked significant debate and controversy due to its perceived discrimination on religious grounds. While it aims to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighboring countries, it has raised concerns about undermining the secular fabric of the nation and excluding certain persecuted groups. Moving forward, it is crucial to address these concerns through dialogue, legal clarity, and amendments if necessary, to ensure that any legislation aligns with the principles of equality, secularism, and inclusivity enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

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