Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: Boon or Bane?

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: Boon or Bane?

Author: Prakhar Gupta, Student,
 3rd Year, BA.LLB
School of Law,
Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, Karnataka.


The research paper is doctrinal research that aims to address the dispute arose between the central and state government regarding Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. It seeks to identify the lacunae in the Citizenship Amendment Act and the reason why Assam and neighboring states are strongly opposing the act. The implicit consequence of passing such an act is that people only from the Muslim community in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be treated as illegal immigrants. This paper will show how Article 14 and other constitutional provisions of the Indian Constitution is being violated after the bill became an Act. It will analyze the intricacies and spirit of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, National Register of Citizens and the policies which are related to the passing of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The Act not only provides citizenship rights to refugees but greatly relaxes the procedure to avail them which has led to violation of international law as well. This paper will also discuss the recent issues arose with respect to the act in various parts of the country and how college students got triggered by the actions of the public servant and various politicians. With the enactment of the act, Assamese started feeling that their region is flooded with a large number of immigrants, which will dilute their culture and identity. As the act is considered as communally motivated humanitarianism; the paper will critique rhetorically on the Central and State Government vote bank politics.
Keywords: Citizenship, humanitarianism, illegal immigrants, minority.


India’s constitution is of the federal type. It establishes a dual polity, a two tier governmental system, with the central government at one level and the state government at the other. The constitution marks off the sphere of action of each level of government by devising an elaborate scheme of distribution of legislative, administrative, and financial powers between the Centre and the states[1]. India’s Federalism is thus a flexible mechanism. The constitution devises in a unique manner several structural techniques to promote intergovernmental co-operation and thus India furnishes a notable example of co-operative federalism. The constitution provides “the means and methods” whereby “all basic matters which is essential to maintain the unity of the country may be secured under a federal system.” The founders were thus concerned with preserving national unity by providing for a string central government. But a look at the federations around the world lead one to conclude that in all cases the national governments have enormously grown in power and prestige at the cost of regional governments. Even within India’s federal framework, the idea of centralization is immensely stretched. The Central government has a large sphere of action and thus plays a more dominant role than the States.
As history of India is itself the evidence that the freedom of India was earned amidst wide spread communal violence in large parts of British India causing large-scale killing and displacement of people of both the communities. In 1947 at the stroke of the midnight hour, when India was awakening to life and freedom, a large number of communal violence broke out in India and Pakistan after 1950 and atrocities on the members of the minority communities were on the rise. Intensification of movement by the Muslim League for a separate land shattered the dream of a unified free India[2]. Refugees came in large number primarily because of introduction of passport system and outbreak of communal riots in parts of East Pakistan[3]. After India’s partition in 1947, the Indian and Pakistani governments established a two-year “grace period” during which Hindus in Pakistan could settle in India and Muslims in India could immigrate to Pakistan.  Pakistanis who migrated to India during the grace period automatically became Indian citizens. After July 26, 1949, however, immigration was possible only by completing
certain legal procedures (visa applications, for example), and unrestricted cross-border migration should have ceased
[4]. The root of the present problem of statelessness of the non-Muslim minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and influx of refugees in the favored destinations of the post-1971 refugees West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam lies in the partition of the country and the way their right to live in a country of their choice was ceased by the state rearrangement in the subcontinent. But today there have been new reasons for minorities to immigrate in India as hatred for the minorities is gradually becoming part of the Islamic, fundamentalist perception of civil society and a part of ruling class ideology in Bangladesh. The members of the minority communities are physically attacked, the religious places, the temples and ashrams are destroyed and religious functions are disrupted. The Human Rights Report on Bangladesh (1994) records a plenty of cases of forceful occupation of land, stealing of paddy, killings, looting of property, lifting and raping of women and girls belonging to minority communities[5].

Chapter I: How does Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is ultra vires to the provisions of Assam Accord?

The 12 million non-Muslims living in Bangladesh are living there as “non citizens albeit citizens” and preparing to cross over the border to get into another form of statelessness. Central government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 with the intention that this act, after enforcement, the minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrants[6]. The Bengali refugees, both the pre and post-1971 ones, have settled down primarily in Bengali majority states likes West Bengal and Tripura. The production of the Bangladeshi illegal immigrant as a governmental category, however; has a longer history that is tied to the question of citizenship and mass migratory flows before and after Partition (1947) as well as to the birth of Bangladesh (1971)[7]. According to 1972 Indira-Mujib agreement, those who have come to India from Bangladesh (or East Pakistan) before 25 March may be taken as Indian citizens but those who have come after that date are illegal Bangladeshi intruders who have to go back to Bangladesh.  Many refugees, who came to India before 25 March 1971, have by now earned Indian citizenship, many with institutional help, being covered by the rehabilitation packages. These rehabilitation packages provided to immigrants was a solution to reduce the tension growing between the Central and Assam political and regional communities.

Despite repatriation, a large number of refugees remained in Assam. On the issue of protection of their identity, the immigration from Bangladesh into Assam, and the government of India’s reluctance to address such issues, the “anti-foreigner”, Assam Agitation (1979-1985) took place[8]. In 1979, with illegal immigration at an all-time high, the All Assam Student Union (AASU) began agitating for the government to evict all illegal aliens from Assam. The AASU’s main demands were (1) the detection of foreign nationals on the basis of the 1951 National Register of Citizens, (2) the disenfranchisement of foreigners by removing their names from Assam’s electoral rolls, and (3) the deportation of foreign nationals[9]. The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985. As per the Accord, those Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 were barred from voting for ten years. The Accord also mentioned that the international borders will be sealed and all persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 were to be deported. The Supreme court in the case of Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha Vs. Union of India (UOI)[10] said, Section 6A did not merely rest content with granting refugee status to those who were illegal migrants from East Pakistan but went on to grant them the benefit of citizenship of India so that all persons who had migrated before 1966 and all persons who migrated before 25th March, 1971 respectively were to become citizens of India either immediately or as is mentioned by the Act after a period of 10 years once there has been a determination that they have in fact settled in India between 1966 and 1971. In Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors.[11] assailing the Constitutional validity of “The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983” and the rules made thereunder referred to the Assam Accord and to the huge influx of illegal migrants into the State of Assam and came to the conclusion that the 1983 Act and the rules made thereunder operated in the reverse direction i.e. instead of seeing that illegal migrants are deported, it did the opposite by placing the burden of proof on the State to prove that a person happens to be an illegal migrant. This Court went on to hold that Article 355 of the Constitution had been violated, in as much as the Union had failed to protect the State of Assam against the external aggression and internal disturbance caused by the huge influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam and went on to hold the 1983 Act to be in violation of Article 14 as well. In as much as this Act was struck down, the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act 1950 together with the Foreigners Act and the Foreigners Tribunal Order of 1964 were now to be the tools in the hands of Government to do the job of detecting illegal migrants who were then to be deported.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is seen in Assam as against the letters and spirit of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. As Clause 6 of the Assam Accord “envisaged that appropriate constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.” Now this accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after. For many years due to huge influx of immigrants, the indigenous people have suffered in the hands of illegal infiltrators. The words “Original Inhabitants”, “indigenous people” and “natives” are somewhat synonymous. Indigenous peoples, also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples, native peoples, or autochthonous peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently[12]. Since indigenous peoples or the aboriginal communities are often faced with threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being and their access to the resources on which their cultures depend; it would be a gross injustice for the local communities to snatch away their basic amenities and transferred in the hand of immigrants[13]. The Assamese fear that being reduced to an ethnic minority in their own homeland will lead to the extinction of their culture and their identity[14]. In Assam, ethnic conflict will continue as long as the various communities do not have the rights and resources necessary to affirm their cultures and secure their survival. Therefore, Citizenship (Amendment) Act is considered to be in violation of the basic object of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord.

Chapter II: Analyzing the intricacies of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 amends the Act of 1955 to provide that the following minority groups will not be treated as illegal migrants: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Historically, State has the right to determine or define who is a citizen of that state[15]. In India the Parliament has exclusive power to legislate with respect to “citizenship”. Article 11 of the Constitution designated the Parliament to decide on a permanent law of Citizenhip and even Article 10 states that a person who is a citizen of India under Arts. 5 to 8 shall, subject to any law made by parliament. There has been huge wave of violent and communal attacks against the minorities especially in Bangladesh. In fact there have been several occasions and instances in the past which reflected not only an attitude of bias and neglect but also ignorance on the part of the central leadership for the Assam immigration issue. For an example, the issue of granting Citizenship to Hindu minorities in Pakistan was raised in 2004 also. The powers to grant Indian Citizenship to nationals of Pakistan belonging to minority Hindu community were delegated to the Collectors of Kutch, Patan, Banaskantha, Ahmedabad of Gujarat and Barmer and Jaisalmer of Rajasthan in 2004 for one year to grant citizenship to Pak nationals of minority community staying in the border districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat as a special case. This delegation was extended up to 2007 on year to year basis. Such powers were not delegated to any other State. Sufficient time was given to these two States to decide such pending cases[16]. 
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is violating the basic fundamental rights of the Constitution of India i.e. Article 14[17] of Indian Constitution. Since Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners, differentiating between people on the grounds of religion would be in violation of the constitution. The benefit of “equality before law and equal protection of law” accrues to every person in India whether a citizen or not. As the Supreme Court has stated in Faridabad CT. Scan Center v. D. G. Health Services[18]“We are a country governed by the Rule of Law. Our constitution confers certain rights on every human being and certain other rights on citizens. Every person is entitled to equality before the law and equal protection of the laws”. The act is favoring only the non-muslim people from the minority groups of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and putting restriction on muslim citizens is clear violation of equality before law. The implicit consequence of such a law is that people only from the Muslim community in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be treated as illegal immigrants. This Act is the most unique in India as it introduces religion as a new principle into the citizenship law. The disguise intention of the central government to discriminate Muslim communities is a violation of constitutional morality. A legislature is entitled to make reasonable classification and treat all in one class on an equal footing[19]. In the case of Western U.P. Electric Power and Supply Co. Ltd. v. State of U.P.[20]Supreme Court stated that Article 14 of Constitution ensures equality among equals: its aim is to protect persons similarly placed against discriminatory treatment. A person setting up a grievance of denial of equal treatment by law must establish that between persons similarly circumstanced, some were treated to their prejudice and the differential treatment had no reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved by law. It is true that during the time of the partition of India in 1947, Muslim population became the majority while Hindus came under minority population in Assam. Also, in the year 1971, Pakistani army unleashed unprecedented violence against their Bengali speaking population who crossed the border and came to Assam to find shelter. But, it does not mean that only Muslims came, so the enactment of the Act in favor of Hindus and minority communities, nowhere amounts to grant citizenship in favor of non-muslim minority communities. The Act relaxes the 12-year requirement to 7 years for non-muslim minority communities belonging to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Even though this act doesn’t grant citizenship to illegal immigrants from minority communities but relaxes the statutory provisions in favor of immigrants. This provision helps minority community’s immigrants to easily apply for Citizenship in India.

Chapter III – How Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 violate basic structure of Indian Constitution and International Law

India is continuously rejecting the proposal of international convention and it is because borders of South Asia is extremely porous and it will result into mass movement of people which will  become as a conflict. India does not want to become the party of international convention and it is allowing refugees in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.The UN Convention against Torture, 1985 (hereinafter Torture Convention)  under Article 3 has clearly stated that the countries are bound by principle of non-refoulment where there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be in danger of being subjected torture upon return. India has signed the Torture Convention but has not ratified it yet.[21] Article 6 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has a right to life without any discrimination which in the case of CAA is being violated for the non-muslim people because they are not allowed to live in India who had arrived in after 31 December, 2014.Also, there exists a strong nexus between human rights and refugee protection and officials of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNDHR) require training in Human Rights law and it is more important than training in UNDHR. It is because the existence of refugee status in India is a violation of Human Rights Law. The two terms of the right-wing populist government have been characterized by various targeted attacks against Muslim minority be it over the choice of food, mob lynching, forced conversions and targeted legislations like criminalization of Triple Talaq[22]. International law and basic structure of Indian Constitution is somewhat interconnected as in if one is being violated, the other itself is being violated. This is because of some articles of Indian Constitution like Article 51C and Article 253 that makes an obligation&n
on India to respect international law in its true spirit. In the case of National Human Rights Commission v. State of Arunachal Pradesh[23], the issue was with respect to Chakma Refugees, who were undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh. The court observed that the right to life and personal liberty as guaranteed by Article 21 of Indian Constitution should be given to Chakma Refugees, though they were not Indian citizens. In light of that, CAA is considered to be unconstitutional as it violates both Article 14 and Article 21 of the constitution. The current form of CAA if implemented would definitely push India into darkness, anarchy and extreme form of lawlessness.[24] The legislature has no answer why oppressed gatherings from other neighboring nations like Rohingyas from Mynamar, Madhesis from Nepal, Tamil Elam from Sri Lanka and Muslims from China are prominently overlooked from thought of “secularity, progressiveness and inclusivity” from the present Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. The primary reason as to why the act is violating the basic structure of constitution is “Secularism”. Religion is not a ground to differentiate between citizens and non-citizens and this classification is not a reasonable classification. Fundamental Rights (Article 14, 19 and 21) and Directives Principles of State Policy (Article 51 and 253), as per the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.[25] , are corresponding and strengthening to one another and are the basic structure of the Indian constitution which whenever abused through any change law will consequently damage the establishing standards of constitution and make that law illegal and void under the present setting of legitimate statute.
Political parties play a major role in dealing with CAA because political party which is in majority i.e. Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) does not want muslims to be the citizens of India. If they are considered to be the citizens of India, then they will vote against their party which is not beneficial to them. Various political leaders of BJP went to various colleges of Delhi and Bangalore like Jamia University and Jyoti Nivas College where they are forcing the students to sign in a writ petition which states that they support CAA. Recently, a police officer fired a gun shot against a protestor who was protesting against CAA openly in a day time and he is supposed to be a part of BJP. But in the court, facts came that he is a minor and should be tried in the Juvenile Court of Justice. On the other hand, Indian National Congress (INC) Leader Jairam Ramesh of Karnataka, has challenged the validity of this act and states that this act is ultra virus to Assam Accord, 1985 and Indian Constitution. Also, it is contrary to the law laid down in the case of Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India & Anr.[26] which is also known as NRC case in which Supreme Court struck down Article 355 of constitution and it not only rejected the idea of making a claim compliance of the principles of natural justice but reiterated its view that uncontrolled immigration posed a threat to the integrity of the nation.


As per this research paper, it cannot be said that Citizenship Act is completely for the benefit of the indigenous community or completely against them. Most of the amendments in the act is going against the legal provisions of the country. But some of the provisions are perfectly valid for our country and to decide a person as a citizen of India. Also, this act has made certain provisions with respect to every state of the country and not just Assam. Almost, all other states are not protesting against it accept some of the northeastern states. The recent hue and cry in the state of Assam accompanied with bloodshed and destruction of property, proves that the indigenous Assamese have the fear of the Guest within, the alien, the illegal immigrant who threatens society, economy, geography and their culture. The government’s action of blending of migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan into an existing community will have severe repercussions. The people of Assam will lose their identity and shall have to kneel down before a colony of advanced Indian states (as it has happened in the past) or have to reconcile to the fate of being annexed by a neighboring state through covert or overt invasion. Central Government negligence to consider unparalleled violence of All Assam Minority Student’s Union (AAMSU), Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) activists can result into a lot more communal violence and bloodshed among immigrants and indigenous community. The fact that the act of Central government to provide citizenship to non-muslims immigrant communities is in sharp contrast with risking the lives of indigenous communities of Assam. But the state doesn’t foresee the long term consequences of providing home to immigrants in different states. If restrictive measures of the kind operated in states like Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram are not imposed in Assam, will make the situation graver.

[1] Jain MP, Indian Constitutional Law, Eighth Edition,

[2] Indian Legal Constitutional History

[3] Abhijit Dasgupta, “The Politics of Agitation and Confession: Displaced Bengalis in West Bengal”, in Sanjay K Roy, (ed.), Refugees and Human Rights, (Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2001), p. 107.

[4] Robert G. Gosseline, Minority Rights and Ethnic Conflict in Assam, India, 14 B. C. Third World L. J. 83 (1994)

[5] Id

[6] The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019

[7] Sanjay K. Roy, Bangladeshi Refugees in India: Statelessness, Rehabilitation and Citizenship, 2 ISIL Y.B. Int’l Human. & Refugee L. 207  (2002)

[8] Amit Ranjan, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Re-Defining Identity, No. 534 – 25 January 2019

[9] Supra 4

[10] AIR 2015 SC 783

[11](2005) 5 SCC 665

[12] Ishwara Bhat, Law and Society

[13] Archit Guha, The Illegal Immigrant Identity and Its Fragments – From Enemy Foreigner to Bangladeshi Illegal Immigrant in (Post) Colonial India, 12 Socio-Legal Rev. 108  (2016)  

[14] Supra 8

[15] The International Court of Justice held in the Nottebohm Case that “it is for every sovereign state to settle by its own legislation the rules relating to the acquisition of its nationality.” Nottebohm (Liechtenstein v. Guatemala), Judgment, 1955 I.C.J. 4, at 20 (April 6, 1955).

[16] Shuvro Prosun Sarker, Inspection of Statelessness and Refugee’s Battle for Citizenship in India: A Critical Study, 12 ISIL Y.B. Int’l Human. & Refugee L. 284 (2012-2013)

[17] The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protections of laws within the territory of India.

[18] AIR 1977 SC 3801

[19] Jain M.P.

[20] AIR 1970 SC 21,24


[22] Supra

[23] 1996 SCC (1) 742

[24] The poisonous law: The citizenship amendment act 2019. (2019, Dec 16). Kashmir Times Retrieved from 

[25] 1980 AIR 1789

[26] A.I.R. 2005 S.C. 2920

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