The bill to amend the principal Act of Citizenship of 1955[1], was brought during the winter session of the parliament, the moment the bill was introduced in the parliament it arouse a lot of controversies inside the parliament and also outside the parliament. The winter session of the parliament was conducted during December 2019 and the party with majority, the Bharatiya Janata Party was keen on passing the bill to amend the existing Act for citizenship of 1955 as it was one of its prominent promises made by them in their 2019 election manifesto.

The bill to amend the existing Act which granted citizenship to non-citizens of India was introduced after the revocation of Article 370 of Indian Constitution which took away all the temporary provisions given to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and also with it there was separation of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two separate Union territories. The amendment to the Act has not just caused political disturbance but also created societal disturbances with some of the provisions of the Act.


Part 2 and Articles from 5-11 of Indian constitution deal with citizenship in India. Article 5 states that any person born in territory or any person’s either of their parents were born in the territory or any person residing in the territory of India for more than 5 years that person from the commencement of the constitution shall be the citizen of India. This part of the constitution also speaks about the rights of the people who have migrated from other countries. Article 9, says any person obtaining or voluntarily acquires citizenship of foreign state seizes to be a citizen of India. And more importantly Article 11 of this part gives the power to parliament to regulate the right of citizenship in India and the power to regulate the law relating to that of citizenship in India is regulated through the powers described under Article 10 and 11 of the constitution. [2]


The parliament in the year 1955 passed and enacted the Citizenship Act by the virtue of Articles 10 and 11 of the constitution.

The Act mentions 4 ways of becoming a citizen that is by birth, descent, registration and naturalization.

By Birth; person becomes citizen from his birth itself.

By Descent; person becomes citizen if either of their parents were citizen at the time of his birth.

By Registration; a person can get registered with authority.

By Naturalization; a foreign citizen not covered by any of the above methods can get Indian citizenship on application to the government of India. [3]

The Amendment Act grants citizenship to the people of other countries basically on the two methods mentioned above and those two methods are registration and naturalization where the non-citizens of India will be granted with citizenship on completion of prescribed grounds and those are that person seeking for citizenship should be residing in India for a fixed period of time where the fixed period under the principal Act was more than 11 years but with the amendment to the Act the period has been reduced down to 5 years.[4]


The Citizenship Amendment Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha during winter session of the parliament, and this bill was proposed to amend the principal Act granting citizenship to migrants from other countries; and this particular bill targeted only three countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and persons belonging to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Parsi or Christian community were exempted by the central government from the provisions of Passport (entry into India) Act of 1920 and Foreigners Act of 1946 and were not treated to be illegal migrants if they were resident or satisfied the service of government of India as required which was not less than 5 years then officially such person residing within the territory of India were no longer treated to be illegal immigrants and were considered to be the official citizens of the country.

The Amendment Act grants citizenship of India to persons coming from these 3 countries as mentioned before and also the persons from such communities mentioned, but such persons should satisfy the conditions as prescribed by the Central government and also they should have entered the territory of India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014. [6]


After the passing of citizenship amendment bill in both the houses of parliament, as dimensions and challenges of passing the bill and amending the existing principal Act of Citizenship Act of 1955. Protests lashed out throughout the territory of India mainly in the parts of North-eastern part of the country and to the Northern states. The provisions of the amended Act as discussed, excludes Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. After all the questionable protests which arouse all around the territory of the nation, there were two sides respectively relating to the protests against the passing of the bill, but the party in majority that is Bharatiya Janata Party looked very keen on amending the particular Act.

The main aim and objective of passing the bill in the parliament as addressed by the Minister of Home Affairs, Shri Amit Shah during his speech in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha said that the bill focused mainly on the religious persecution which was going on with all the minorities from those 3 mentioned countries. The minorities belong to these 3 countries were Non-Muslims and such people belonging to minorities faced a lot of violence and intolerance towards them and their religious practices this is why the Minister of Home Affairs mentioned the word Religious Persecution in the mentioned countries. The minorities from such countries were restricted from, Right to practice, profess and propagate their religious practices and also to safeguard their interests from such activities.

The amendment to the Act arouse a lot of protests against it and primarily all the protests which happened in the North-Eastern part of the nation were against the amended Act, because of chances of threat to their indigenous culture and customs which were prevalent from hundreds of years and the protests lashed out as soon as the Act was amended in both the houses of parliament and it was assented by the President of India. The people of North East mainly the people of Assam were against the Act as it would affect the culture and customs of their people and would also affect their future opportunities, mostly the youth of Assam were agitated from the move made by the Government of India, and they questioned all the technical matters under the provisions of the Act where the period of residing to satisfy the conditions laid down under it, were reduced down to 5 years from 11 years. Another reason for opposing the newly amended Act was due to the opportunities which would get affected by such provisions which would allow millions of people to come and reside in such territories of the nation which would affect the employment, resource opportunities for the local people of such states. All the protests mainly revolved around these issues which would affect the geographical as well as ecological aspects of their states.[7]

Amongst the protests one were which lashed out in the north eastern states and some also arouse in some of the major states of the nation like, Delhi, Gujarat, U.P, Karnataka, Punjab and other states. The other side of protests which took place mainly in Delhi was opposing the amendment on the grounds of exclusion of Muslims from the list of people from communities to seek citizenship from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The people protesting in some other states against the amended Act were opposing it that it would go against the primary objectives of preamble of constitution of providing equality to all of its citizens, the protests in Delhi started with student protests in Jamia Milia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University, all the protests turned out to be of violent nature. The protestors have a feeling of threat amongst them that this move made by the Central government by passing a bill to amend the law relating to that of granting citizenship to people of other countries would also affect their interests and their citizenship, but the Home Minister while delivering a speech in the houses of parliament very clearly said that the implementation and application of the Act in the society would not affect the citizenship of the existing minorities of the nation that is Muslims in this regard. But still the people belonging to such community are not satisfied of the provisions and also do not have any clear vision relating to the implementation of the amended Act for citizenship. This particularly is another side of protests taking place in the country which has created a lot of misunderstanding and violence in the country.[8]

The Act itself very clearly focuses upon the concept of granting citizenship to people of the mentioned countries of minority communities and not taking away the citizenship of existing citizens of Muslim community in India, and the main cause of such misunderstanding of such protests is the absence if clearance about the concept and the provisions of the amended Act. [9]

Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and National Register of Citizens:

The Citizenship Amendment Act is an Act to grant citizenship to people or migrants on completion of the grounds as prescribed by the government of India, but NRC is National Register of Citizens and this is an exercise conducted by the government to identify and send back the illegal immigrants who are staying or residing within the territory of India without any authority of staying.

Amidst all the protests across the territory of India, there is also a lot of confusion relating to that of Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens which was ordered by the Supreme Court of India to evacuate all the illegal immigrants residing illegally without any permission of the Government, and around 14 lakh of them were sent back to their particular countries.

The people protesting against the said Act are also opposing it that it would be interlinked with the exercise of NRC which takes away the citizenship of people if they do not have any legal documents which would prove their legal stay in India and their proof of being the legal citizen of India, the people belonging to minority community are opposing the Act of the threat of being linked with the exercise of NRC. NRC is an exercise where a particular person to prove his/her citizenship or being a legal citizen of the country has to prove it by producing all the documents to the government like the documents of their ancestors, property documents or any identity document which is produced to people by any department of the government. The members of the minority community of India being excluded from the list of members who can seek citizenship from the countries are feared that such exclusion would affect their legal citizenship, whereas it has also been interpreted that only the members of Muslim community would be affected by the implementation of NRC in India, whereas by the implementation of the NRC each and every citizen of the country irrespective of the religion must have to prove their citizenship by producing necessary documents to the departments of the government. The application and implementation of the Act and the implementation of NRC are two different things and also recently the implementation of NRC was officially delayed by the Ministry of Home Affairs of state.[10]

Constitutional Validity of the Act and Preamble of Indian Constitution:

After the amendment of the said existing or principal Act granting citizenship to outside persons, it has created a lot of chaos throughout the country. The exclusion of Muslims from the list of persons who can reside for a term as satisfied by the government to become a legal citizen of India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has created a lot of chaos and resulted to protests on the grounds and basis that it would go against the objectives of preamble, where the preamble of Indian constitution speaks about Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity [11]. The protest have centered on the concept that the implementation of the Act would go against the concept of equality under the preamble of the constitution. Most of the prominent lawyers have shown their views by reading out the preamble in such protests. But the question here is whether the Act goes against the interests of Muslims in India? Whether the Act takes away the citizenship of such Muslims in India? Whether the exclusion of the Muslims goes against the objectives of preamble?

The fundamental right of equality before the law stated under Article 14 of the constitution[12] speaks about the right of equality of the citizens of India and in no such manner the implementation of the Act affects the rights of being treated equally, because the provisions of the Act does not affect the interests of the citizens of India, but only excludes the community of Muslims from the mentioned countries under the provisions of the Act, because of the reasons and objectives as mentioned in the objects of the Act, that is was passed to protect the interests of the minorities in such Muslim states from religious persecution. The Act in no manner affects the objectives of Preamble of Constitution.


The topic of this particular essay being the passing of the bill in both the houses of parliament to amend the principal Act dealing with granting citizenship to people of other countries. The newly amended Act has faced a lot of criticism where it has clearly parted people into two sides, on one side people are protesting it who are not happy and satisfied by the provisions inserted in the Act. The people of North east are unhappy with the terms and provisions of the Act that it has reduced the period of time to be satisfied by the people seeking the citizenship of India from a term of 11 years to 5 years, considering it as a threat to their indigenous culture and customs which are on a peak of being exploited. And on the other side people are protesting it as threat to the very basic nature of India if being secular, and also considering it a as a threat to the preamble objectives and the Muslim community members. No matter who is supporting or not supporting the amendment of the Act, one thing is clear that there is no specific clarity about the provisions inserted under the Act, and this has created a lot of chaos amongst the people, and also has created a lot of opportunities to the politicians to influence their vote banks which has also created a lot of chaos amongst the people. The Central government should come further to clarify the ambiguity created with the provisions of the Act, and also people instead of violently protesting against the implementation of the Act should look into the merits of the Act, where the provisions of such Act are in no way against the objectives of the preamble of Indian constitution and also would not affect people of any community in India, mainly the people of Muslim community need not worry about the exclusion of Muslims from the Act, as it would not take away their citizenship and the implementation of the Act and NRC would affect them as much as it would affect the people belonging to other communities or religion in general. India will always be secular and that is the biggest strength of it, unity in diversity.      














Deepak Habib, Karnataka State Law University’s Law School, Hubli

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