Centre Mulls Making Process Of Granting Citizenship Under CAA Online To Bypass States
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)  

Centre Mulls Making Process Of Granting Citizenship Under CAA Online To Bypass States

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The Centre is likely to make the entire process of granting citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Act online to bypass states, some of which are opposed to the new legislation, officials said on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is mulling the option of doing away with the present procedure of routing applications for citizenship through the district magistrate in view of the strong opposition expressed by several states, including Kerala which on Tuesday passed a resolution in the Assembly demanding to scrap the controversial Act.

The Home Ministry official said they are thinking of designating a new authority instead of the district magistrate and make the entire process of application, examination of documents and granting Indian citizenship online. If the process becomes completely online, there will be no intervention from a state government at any level, he added.

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Besides, the home ministry officials are of the opinion that the state governments have no power to reject the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act as the legislation was enacted under the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. The states have no power to deny implementation of a central law which is in the Union List, the top official said.

There are 97 items that are under the Union List that include Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Citizenship, and Naturalisation. According to the amended Citizenship Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till Dec. 31, 2014, and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

The Act says refugees of the six communities will be given Indian citizenship after residing in India for five years, instead of 11 years earlier. The act also proposes to give immunity to such refugees facing legal cases after being found as illegal migrants. The Kerala Assembly had on Tuesday passed a resolution demanding to scrap the controversial Act, amid raging countrywide protests against the legislation.

The ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and the opposition Congress-led UDF supported the resolution while the BJP's lone MLA and former Union minister O Rajagopal's was the only dissenting voice in the one-day special session. The house adopted the resolution moved by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Vijayan had said that "an anti-constitutional law will have no place" in his state.

A number of chief ministers, including those of West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, had already announced that the law is "unconstitutional" and has no place in their respective state. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said, "In your (BJP) manifesto, instead of development issues, you have put in promise to divide the country. Why will citizenship be on the basis of religion? I will not accept this. We dare you...".

"You can pass laws in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha forcefully because you have the number. But we will not let you divide the country," she said. Describing the Act as a direct assault on India's secular character, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said his government would not let the legislation to be implemented in his state.

"We have a majority in the assembly and will block the bill," Singh said. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had said the Act was clearly unconstitutional. "Whatever decision is made at the Congress party forum on the bill, will be applied in Chhattisgarh," he said. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath had said, "Whatever stand the Congress party has taken on the Citizenship Amendment Act, we will follow that. Do we want to be a part of a process that sows seeds of divisiveness?".

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had also said the bill was a "brazen assault" on the fundamental ideas enshrined in the Constitution and the fate of the law will be decided in the Supreme Court.

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