The centre has given itself time – till July 9 at least – to frame and implement rules relating to the controversial citizenship law, amendments to which were passed in December 2019 amid unprecedented chaos in parliament and violent protests across the country.
In a response to a question in parliament today – by Congress Lok Sabha MP VK Sreekandan – the Home Ministry said that the Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, had been in force since January 10, 2020, but rules were “under preparation”.
“The Committees on Subordinate Legislation, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have granted extension of time up to April 9 and July 9, respectively, to frame these rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” the Home Ministry said.
Mr Sreekandan had asked: “… whether it is a fact that the Government is considering to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act very soon” and “… whether the rules under CAA are still under preparation despite the fact that the said Bill was passed more than a year ago”.
The Home Ministry also told a parliamentary panel that a decision on the national rollout of the equally controversial NRC (National Register of Citizens) was still pending.
The panel, headed by the Congress’ Anand Sharma, pointed to concerns expressed by members of the public over the nature and safety of data collected for such an exercise.
In December last year Home Minister Amit Shah had said the process of framing rules had been delayed because of the pandemic, and that it would be taken up once the vaccination drive began.
India began its national Covid vaccination drive on January 16.
Parliamentary rules say “statutory rules, regulations and bye-laws will be framed within a period of six months from the date on which the relevant statute came into force”.
It also says that in case of delays the concerned ministries and departments “should seek extension of time from the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, stating reasons for such extension”, and that these extensions cannot be for more than three months at a time.
The CAA triggered protests in several states, including Assam and Bengal, both of which are due to hold Assembly elections in the coming weeks and months. Bombs were thrown and trains were set on fire in Bengal, and a strong student-led agitation challenged the CAA in Assam.
The epicentre of those protests was Delhi; the national capital witnessed pitched battles over four days in March, in which over 50 people were killed and hundreds injured. It also saw a huge sit-in protest at Shaheen Bagh, which was only broken up in March last year because of the pandemic.
The BJP, which is in power in Assam and making a ferocious pitch to gain control of Bengal, has made no secret of its desire to see the law implemented across the country.
Last month Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said “no CAA will be allowed” in her state. In January last year Bengal became the fourth opposition-ruled state to pass an anti-CAA resolution.
The CAA makes, for the first time in this country, religion a test of citizenship.
The centre, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Shah, has repeatedly defended the controversial law, saying it grants citizenship to persecuted minorities – non-Muslims. It does so for those from three Muslim-majority neighbouring nations – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Critics, however, fear the law discriminates against Muslims, violates the secular nature of the Constitution and, in conjunction with the NRC (National Register of Citizens) and an exercise to update the NPR (National Population Register), can be used to identify and target Muslims.
With input from PTI