Protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill in Delhi

On 10 December, several cities across India witnessed protests in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. A main ground of contention is that the bill violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which notes, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” SHAHID TANTRAY FOR THE CARAVAN
11 December, 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2019 paves the way for individuals from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to gain Indian citizenship. The bill notes that members of these non-Muslim communities who entered India on or before 31 December 2014 shall not be treated as illegal immigrants, and it reduces their eligibility for citizenship through naturalisation from eleven to five years. It also states that on being conferred citizenship, any pending proceedings against these individuals, with regard to illegal immigration or citizenship, would stand abated. But Muslim communities from these countries are not entitled to any such benefits, and will continue to be considered illegal immigrants under the law.

On 9 December, the Lok Sabha passed the bill amid significant opposition, and two days later, it was tabled before the Rajya Sabha. Amit Shah, the union home minister, defended the bill in parliament by arguing that it seeks to protect the minority communities of India’s neighbouring countries. Yet, as several observers have pointed out, the bill does not provide any protection to the persecuted Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, or the Tamil minority community in Sri Lanka. Observers have also stated that the bill violates several provisions of the Constitution by excluding the Muslim community. It remains to be seen whether the bill will be passed in the Rajya Sabha, and if so, whether it can survive a constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court.