President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Thursday night, turning it into an act.

The bill was passed in Lok Sabha with 311 MPs favouring and 80 MPs voting against it, and in Rajya Sabha with 125 MPs favouring it while 105 MPs voting against it.

According to this act, immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, who are followers of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religion, have entered India till 31st December, 2014 and are facing religious persecution on those countries won’t be treated as illegal citizens and will be given Indian Citizenship after residing here only for 5 years, instead of 11, the earlier requirement. The following part has been added to the Section 2(1)(b) of the original Citizenship Act, 1955:

“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”.

This act will not be applicable to the states included in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and in the areas covered under the Inner Line Permit, notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

The rationale given by the law makers for the enactment of this act is to protect the people of religious minorities these countries, who have fled their countries and came to India because of the fear of religious persecution in their respective countries.

This act has received a lot of criticism since the time it was only a bill, this bill was criticized and said to be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution by various political parties. There are protests in the northeastern states, where the residents are of the view that the immigrants will disturb demography of the region and will burden resources and decrease the employment for the residents, also they feel that the bill will render the provisions of the Assam Accord, 1985 useless, the provisions of this accord fixed 24th March, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal immigrants.

The IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) have already moved to Supreme Court against this act, they filed a petition against it when it was only a bill. They have contested that this bill violates the Right to Equality as it leaves out Muslims from getting the benefit of this act.

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