Citizenship amendment bill may not get through in Winter session of Parliament

By: | Published: December 30, 2018 2:03 PM

A meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which is examining the bill, will be held on Monday to finalise the proposed legislation before being submitted to the Lok Sabha.

Citizenship amendment bill may not get through in Winter session of Parliament

The controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill may not able to get through during the Winter session of Parliament which comes to an end on January 8, sources said Sunday. A meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which is examining the bill, will be held on Monday to finalise the proposed legislation before being submitted to the Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to grant Indian nationality to people belonging to minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12, even if they don’t possess any proper document.

This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014. “The bill is likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha either on January 7 or 8. There is very little time for debate before it is passed in the Lower House and then in the Rajya Sabha,” a source privy to the deliberations told PTI. However, in Monday’s meeting the BJP may have its way in incorporating some “contentious” provisions in the proposed legislation. JPC chairman Rajendra Agrawal said the committee will try to finalise the bill through consensus after examining every clause. “However, if we cannot reach a consensus, we will go for voting, which is a standard procedure for Parliament,” he told PTI. The BJP has 14 MPs, including Agrawal, in the 30-member panel.

The Congress has four members while the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal have two MPs each. The Shiv Sena, JD(U), TRS, TDP, CPI(M), AIADMK, SP, BSP have one member each in the panel. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can’t be given on basis of religion. “If there is a voting, the BJP is likely to have its way in incorporating some contentious clauses. Monday’s meeting is very crucial,” sources said. In the last meeting of the JPC, held on November 27, opposition members moved clause-by-clause amendments and one Congress MP sought removal of Bangladesh from the purview of the proposed legislation.

Interestingly, an NDA member suggested that Assam, where the bill received strong opposition, should be excluded from the ambit of the legislation. Various members from opposition parties have been asserting that citizenship is a constitutional provision and it cannot be based on religion, as India is a secular nation. Rather than resolving the situation in Assam, this bill is making the condition more volatile in the already tense state, an opposition member in the panel had said. Echoing similar sentiments, a Congress member said if all the proposed amendments come into force, then the Centre has to nullify the Assam Accord under which anyone entering the state illegally after March 1971, should be declared foreigner and deported. Agrawal said they were bound to submit the report in this session as in all practical purposes, Winter session is the last session of the current Lok Sabha. A large section of people and 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 illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.

Even the governments of Meghalaya and Mizoram have strongly opposed the bill and adopted resolutions against it. The committee has already taken six extensions from the Lok Sabha Speaker. Last time it had sought time for the presentation of the report was 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 over the issue. The committee also heard the views of the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

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