The country’s government, however, is yet to frame rules under the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019
The Indian home ministry on Friday issued a notification granting powers to authorities concerned in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to accept, verify and approve the citizenship applications from members of minority communities hailing from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a gazette notification, the ministry said that the “minority community” would include Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians, who currently live in the aforementioned states, reports Indian media.
A similar notification was issued in 2018 as well for other districts in several states.
The fresh order was issued under the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Citizenship Rules of 2009, bypassing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 since its rules are yet to be framed.
In December 2020, Home Minister Amit Shah had said the rules could not be framed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the process will be considered once “vaccination starts and corona cycle breaks.”
The notification also states that the applications will have to be submitted online.
The districts listed in the notification are — Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara in Gujarat; Durg and Balodabazar in Chhattisgarh; Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer, and Sirohi in Rajasthan; Faridabad in Haryana; and, Jalandhar in Punjab.
It also granted similar powers to the home secretaries of Haryana and Punjab, except for Faridabad and Jalandhar.
The collector or the secretary, as the case may be, at the district level and the state level were given powers to carry out the process of verification of the applications for citizenship, reads the notification.
The notification also asks the district collector and the home secretary concerned to maintain an online as well as physical register, containing details of the person registered or naturalized as a citizen of India and furnish a copy to the central government within seven days of the process.
In 2018, Indian media reports said, the government had granted similar powers to collectors and home secretaries of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi regarding certain districts.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by the Indian parliament on December 11, 2019, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country before December 31, 2014.
It has been widely criticised for excluding the Muslims and sparked huge protests across the country.
There is apprehension among people that the CAA, followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC), will benefit non-Muslims, while excluded Muslims would have to prove their citizenship.
The government has, however, repeatedly denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked. About 13 states have opposed the National Population Register (NPR) process over its links with the NRC and the CAA.
As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India NRC which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India.
Sources said the home ministry has been deliberating on framing the CAA rules for over a year without any headway, reports The Indian Express. The rules are essential for the implementation of the act. The rules are supposed to specify the kind of documents that would be needed to prove whether the applicant came from these countries to India before the cut-off date (December 31, 2014) or not. Most illegal immigrants have entered the country without any travel documents.
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