CAA Implementation: Necessary to Bypass West Bengal State Government

Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement of assurance in Siliguri Rally regarding implementation of CAA is expected to instill confidence in innumerable people eligible to get Indian Citizenship under CAA.

On May 5, 2022 from a public rally at Siliguri West Bengal, Home Minister Shri Amit Shah stated in unambiguous terms that his Ministry would invariably implement CAA once COVID waves were over. His authoritative articulation was applauded by the gigantic crowd. Even though Trinamool Congress is spreading rumour that CAA had lapsed, the law exists, would continue to exist & would definitely be implemented on ground to grant citizenship to bonafide people, said Amit Shah. HM Amit Shah asserted the same on February 21 from a public rally at Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh too. However, not only in public rallies, MHA has, on April 26, officially recorded significance of CAA by stating in MHA’s annual report that “CAA is a compassionate, limited and ameliorative Act.” All these perhaps indicates delay in CAA rule-framing is deliberate and due to some different priorities being set by the Ministry of Home Affairs for the time being.

CAA Cannot Expire Due to Delay In Rule Framing

Rumours in the air that CAA doesn’t exist any more seems false and motivated. Here’s why-

The first thing people are prone to misapprehend about the 2019 amendment of the Citizenship Act (popularly known as CAA) is thinking it a new law while in reality CAA is just another amendment of the original Citizenship Act. Citizenship Act of India 1955 has been amended more than 40 times before adding the latest amendment to it in 2019. Thinking rationally, it seems impossible for a particular amendment of an existing law to expire without the expiry of the original law. Moreover, is there any law that states a law democratically passed in the parliament of India & duly signed by the President would expire or lapse if rules are not framed within a stipulated time? No such law exists though it has been reported that as per the parliamentary work manual, rules for any legislation need to be framed within six months of presidential nod or seek extension from the committees of subordinate legislation— Loksabha & Rajyasabha. This indicates that necessity of rule-framing within a stipulated period is a convention mentioned in the parliamentary work manual which, however, cannot be legally binding. In simpler terms, expiry of an existing law, even if not implemented, is not an automatic process.

Citizenship Act 1955: GOI May Frame Rules At Its Discretion

Though implementation being delayed, existence & immense relevance of CAA 2019 has already been endorsed by Guwahati High Court in one of its verdict in December, 2021. Moreover, in both CAA 2019 and in the original Citizenship Act 1955 under Section 18, it has been mentioned in subsection (1) that The Central Government ‘may’, by notification in the Official Gazette make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act. This implies Government of India has legal liberty to frame rules at its own discretion & choice of time. Had framing of rules been mandatory within a stipulated time frame, it would have been mentioned ‘The Central Government ‘shall’, by notification in the Official Gazette make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.’ Hence, the conjecture that stormed social media earlier arguing CAA would stand void due to delay in rule framing doesn’t hold good & seems a propaganda. Moreover, before 2019 amendment, Citizenship Act 1955 was amended more than 40 times. It would be folly to assume that each amendment required GOI to frame new rules. However, the sheer nature of the 2019 amendment is such that it would require new rules, framing of which is being delayed by the Government of India. Such delay is causing inconvenience to a set of people eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship under CAA. While all who are eligible to get Citizenship under CAA do not need to apply for it immediately, some need it without any further delay. Such a case had recently been heard by Guwahati High Court.

Guwahati High Court: A Case that Showcased The Niche For CAA 2019

A man named Bablu Paul from Assam’s Patharkandi area of Karimganj district was declared an illegal migrant by Karimganj’s foreigners’ tribunal in 2017. However, on December 14 2021, Justice Malasri Nandi & Justice N. Kotiswar Singh of Guwahati High Court overruled the tribunal’s order & declared Bablu Paul to be eligible to register as an Indian citizen because he’s a Hindu. It was alleged that Bablu Paul was a foreigner as he entered Assam after March 25, 1971, the cut-off date under the Assam Accord to declare immigrants as foreigners though Paul told the court that his grandfather came to West Bengal from Bangladesh in 1964 when Bablu himself was about two years old i.e. much before the 1971 cut-off. The court dismissed the tribunal’s verdict citing the 2019 amendment (CAA) of the Citizenship Act of India. This observation of Guwahati High Court proves that though rules to implement the 2019 amendment of Citizenship Act has not yet been notified, the amendment is already a part of the original existing Act. Bablu Paul’s case has created a precedence of utility of CAA. As Assam showcased the first protest against CAA, it is coincidental that the significance & necessity of CAA too were first demonstrated by Assam. Guwahati High Court set aside the order dated 08.05.2017 passed by Foreigners’ Tribunal-II, Karimganj, Assam, in F.T. Case No.350/2015 and directed Bablu Paul to make an immediate application for registration as citizen of India under Section 5 of the Citizenship Act 1955 before competent authority so that the competent authority on receipt of such an application might pass appropriate orders regarding citizenship of Bablu Paul. Guwahati High Court added that till consideration of such an application that may be filed by Paul, he shall not be subjected to any coercive action by the State / authorities. Bablu Paul’s case is indeed a showcase example indicating the niche for an amendment of the Citizenship Act like that of 2019.

Why New Rules Necessary For CAA Implementation?

People who might be eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship within the purview of CAA 2019 would obtain Indian Citizenship either by Naturalization of by Registration. Is it possible for them to apply for the same under the existing rules thereof with the help of existing forms? Answer is in negative. Existing forms for application of Citizenship by Registration and Naturalization require such supporting documents which people applying for Citizenship under CAA 2019 may not be able to produce. People, who are eligible to apply for Indian Citizenship under Section 5 i.e. by Registration, can be of 6 types for whom there are 6 different varieties of application forms too. To fill up all these forms, the first two necessary documents as mentioned under the existing rules are copy of a valid foreign passport & a copy of residential permit or long term visa. However, Government of India is not looking for such documents from people who could apply for Indian Citizenship under CAA 2019. This prepares ground for indispensability of framing new rules for granting Citizenship to eligible people under CAA 2019.

What Is the Existing System to Apply for Citizenship by Registration or Naturalization?

Under the existing rules, application for Citizenship by Registration or Naturalization includes following steps-

  1. It is required to apply online first to MHA GOI by filling up the relevant form followed by its online submission.
  2. After this is done, the applicant has to submit a duly signed or self-attested hard copy of the computer generated application form along with the prescribed supporting documents to the nearest office of the Collector or District Magistrate of the State.
  3. After receipt of the application, the DM / Collector is supposed to send it along with a report on the eligibility & suitability of the applicant to the State Government within 60 days.
  4. Thereafter, the application along with the recommendation of the State Government is to be sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI within another 30 days.
  5. Each applicant, whose case is found to be fully complete in accordance with the prescribed requirements, is informed about the acceptance of his or her application through the State Government subject to fulfilment of prescribed conditions.

What are these conditions?

After such acceptance the applicant is again required to furnish some new documents through the State Government e.g. Certificate of Renunciation of his/her foreign citizenship issued by the Mission of the concerned country and some more personal particulars of the applicant.

Thereafter, the Citizenship Certificate shall be sent by MHA to the State Government who, after completing all the prescribed formalities, would issue the same to the applicant.

It is evident that people eligible for Indian Citizenship under CAA would not be able to furnish most of such documents. Would High Commission of Bangladesh or Pakistan issue Certificate of Renunciation of Bangladesh & Pakistan citizenship respectively to the people who escaped from those lands out of religious persecution? Answer is in negative as that would be equivalent to admitting persecution. Framing of new rules for granting Citizenship under CAA 2019 is, hence, a necessity for implementation thereof.

West Bengal: Appears A Stumbling Block in CAA Implementation

Eligible people of West Bengal, it seems, would not be able to avail Citizenship even if CAA 2019 is implemented. As the procedure to receive & process applications for Citizenship requires involvement of the State machinery (as stated above), West Bengal’s District Magistrates might reject applications of genuine applicants finding some or other glitches in them. Finding glitches in a set of documents is perhaps one of the easiest tasks bureaucrats are trained to do. West Bengal DMs might be directed to send those applications forward to the State Secretariat with negative notes & West Bengal Chief Secretary might forward them to MHA GOI recommending rejection.

Why Such Apprehension?

As West Bengal legislature traditionally encourages entry of illegal immigrants and the State is documented to be a major entrance gateway for infiltrators, State of West Bengal is expected not to endorse granting of Indian Citizenship only to non-Muslim migrants’ & hence might manipulate applications from eligible people. West Bengal, from antecedents, is likely to obfuscate the process subverting the authority of Government of India in granting Citizenship. Moreover, rejection of applications by MHA GOI following recommendation of rejection from the apex authorities of West Bengal State Secretariat would provide West Bengal ruling dispensation another great scope to portray Centre in bad light. As West Bengal polity is all about blame game & techniques of subversion, implementation of CAA would serve them with another opportunity to oppose CAA and since application disposal (as per existing rules) is literally impossible without State’s co-operation, West Bengal would hardly co-operate leading to rejection of most of the applications from West Bengal. This, further, would help anarchists raise demand to repeal CAA in a way similar to how they demanded repealing of Farm Laws.

How to Cross Such State Hurdle?

For implementation of CAA in West Bengal, submission of application may be appropriate to be done in some Central Government Offices bypassing the State Bureaucrats. Bypassing the State seems necessary in West Bengal as all signs & antecedents clearly suggest West Bengal State bureaucrats are parts of a nexus which had been observed as a “politico-bureacratic-criminal nexus” by a non-profit organization named “Call For Justice” when they came to West Bengal for investigating post poll Bengal Violence on the ground. West Bengal Governor Shri Jagdeep Dhankar’s Twitter account contains a thorough documentation of how the State of West Bengal violates Constitutional guidelines as a regular practice indicating near-completion politicization of the State. Moreover, many people were driven out of their houses during post-poll Bengal Violence after their identity documents like PAN CARD, AADHAR CARD, VOTER ID CARD etc were snatched away by political hoodlums. It is not impossible that those documents of the true residents of West Bengal would be used by the State bureaucrats to establish infiltrators in their places using their documents. For such cases, implementation of CAA may end up giving Citizenship to infiltrators under the guise of true residents of West Bengal. Hence new rules to implement CAA bypassing the States is necessary to be framed by MHA for granting Citizenship to the bonafide people.

Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement of assurance in Siliguri Rally regarding implementation of CAA is expected to instill confidence in innumerable people eligible to get Indian Citizenship under CAA.

Debjani Bhattacharyya

Source : NewsBharati

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