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Citizenship Amendment Bill: Shah likely to announce relief for Manipur

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New Delhi, Dec 09: The Union Government has worked out alternate measures to address the concerns of the people of Manipur ahead of the tabling of the crucial Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Union Home Minister, Amit Shah would announce these measures while he tables this Bill in the Lok Sabha today. The announcement would be on the extra and exit permit system and also a provision on the Inner Line Permit.

Citizenship Amendment Bill: Shah likely to announce relief for Manipur

The primary intention of this Bill is to provide citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Several such persons are living in India since the time of partition and are without any legal rights. The Modi government says that this Bill is aimed at correcting a historical wrong.

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However, controversy has not spared this Bill. The Congress has already threatened to go to the Supreme Court.

The Bill, however, has one interesting clause and this is with regard to the Inner Line Permit Regime Areas. The Bill states that the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime areas and those regions which are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution are excluded from the purview of this Bill.

The clause explained:

The ILP is prevalent in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. This would mean that citizens of other states visiting these states would require the ILP. This is because these areas are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Section 2 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873 states that the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram fall under the purview of the ILP. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution speaks about autonomous councils and districts were created in the tribal areas of Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. These areas enjoy several legislative and executive powers.

While the ILP is restricted to the three states, there are 10 areas across the North East which are under the Sixth Schedule. These 10 areas include 3 each from Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and 1 from Tripura.

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Before inserting this clause into the Bill, there was a wide range of discussions to widen the scope of the ILP. One of the discussions was relating to Section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1961 under which the Centre has the power to declare any area adjoining the frontiers of India to be a notified area in the interest of the safety and security of India.

What is the Sixth Schedule:

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration of the tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram as per Article 244.

The Governor is empowered to increase or decrease the areas or change the names of the autonomous districts. While executive powers of the Union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in Vth schedule, the VIth schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state.

The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.

The Councils have also been endowed with wide civil and criminal judicial powers, for example establishing village courts etc. However, the jurisdiction of these councils is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.

The Sixth schedule to the Constitution includes 10 autonomous district councils in 4 states. These are:

  • Assam: Bodoland Territorial Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council.
  • Meghalaya: Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
  • Tripura: Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
  • Mizoram: Chakma Autonomous District Council, Lai Autonomous District Council, Mara Autonomous District Council.

The opposition:

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPM and a few other political parties have been opposing the bill, claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion.

Congress's Shashi Tharoor said it violates the basic idea of India that religion can never be a reason for citizenship.

"Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood ... that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of the nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar had said, that religion cannot determine nationhood," he told reporters in Parliament premises.

However, the main opposition was from the political parties and civil rights activists from Assam. They said that the Bill in the current form would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord that fixed March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for decoration of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Assam minister Himanta Sarma said that the new Bill will have a cut off date. The Union Home Minister had assured that the new Bill would not include the states with the ILP regime and areas administered under the Sixth Schedule.

Difference between Citizenship Bill and NRC:

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 is aimed at granting citizenship to the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014.

The minimum residency period thanks to this Bill would be reduced from 12 years to 7 years and this would not be specific to any state barring those areas under the ILP regime and under the Sixth Schedule.

The NRC is for those had settled in Assam until the midnight of March 24, 1971. There was an agitation after local leaders complained about the sudden increase of Muslim population in the electoral rolls in 1978 and 1979.

This led to the signing of the Assam Accord which mandated that those settled in Assam after the cut off date of March 24, 1971, would lose their citizenship.

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord states, "constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the culture, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assam people."

To constitutionalise Clause 6 a panel was set up which would look to award reservation in employment under the Assam government to the Assamese people.

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