Parliamentary panel on citizenship amendment bill set to table report in winter session
New Delhi, Oct 23: A joint parliamentary committee, which is examining a controversial bill seeking to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act, is set to table its report in the Winter session of Parliament in December. The bill is receiving vehement opposition in Assam and other northeastern states. In Assam, 46 organisations called a 12-hour bandh Tuesday to protest against the Centre's bid to pass the proposed legislation in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
"The Winter session is practically the last session of the House (16th Lok Sabha). If we do not submit our report, it means we have not done our work properly. Besides the committee will also lapse," chairman of the joint parliamentary committee and BJP MP from Meerut, Rajendra Agrawal, told PTI. Agrawal, however, made it clear that a final decision on tabling the report of the committee will be decided by its members soon. "The committee will decide when to submit the report," he said. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
On Tuesday, the joint parliamentary committee held a meeting to discuss the bill. Among others, the amendment bill seeks to grant citizenship to people from minority communities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don't possess any proper document. A large section of people, organisations in the Northeast have opposed the bill saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of religion. The Meghalaya and Mizoram governments have strongly opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill and adopted resolutions against it.
"We understand there are concerns among some people. Many of the organisations have met us. We are open for further discussions in the coming days," Agrawal said, when asked whether the committee members will again visit Assam, where the bill is receiving maximum opposition. During Tuesday's meeting of the panel, chaired by Agrawal, Congress and Left members objected the move to finalise the report in a "hasty" manner while BJP members asserted that the bill is pending before the committee for two years and the report should be finalised at the earliest. The representatives of the ministries of Home, External Affairs and Law appeared before the panel. Members told them to answer all the queries raised by them within a week.
The committee has also made the home ministry as the nodal ministry for submitting relevant documents to it. The committee has already taken six extensions from the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. It has sought time for the presentation of the report on the "first day of the last week of the Winter Session, 2018".
During the course of its examination and study visits, the committee met a cross section of people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Meghalaya and heard views of organisations, individuals, experts and others. The committee also heard the views of the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Political parties, including the Congress and the AIUDF, have extended their support to Tuesday's bandh in the "interest of Assam and its indigenous people". All district magistrates and superintendents of police have been instructed by the BJP government in the state to take measures to maintain public utility services in view of the bandh call.