With the Centre yet to frame rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, it issued a gazette notification Friday granting powers under existing rules to authorities in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to accept, verify and approve citizenship applications from members of minority communities hailing from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The notification lists Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians as the communities that will be covered, and states that the applications will have to be submitted online.
The order has been issued under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship Rules, 2009 and not under the Citizenship
Amendment Act, 2019 since its rules have not yet been framed, sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said. A similar notification had been issued in 2018 as well for other districts in several states.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955), the Central Government hereby directs that powers exercisable by it, for registration as a citizen of India under section 5, or for grant of certificate of naturalisation under section 6, of the Citizenship Act, 1955, in respect of any person belonging to minority community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians… shall also be exercisable by the Collector, within whose jurisdiction the applicant is ordinarily resident,” the notification said.
The districts listed in the notification are: Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara (Gujarat); Durg and Balodabazar (Chhattisgarh); Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi (Rajasthan); Faridabad (Haryana); and, Jalandhar (Punjab).
It also granted similar powers to the Home Secretaries of Haryana and Punjab, except for Faridabad and Jalandhar.
“The verification of the application is done simultaneously by the Collector or the Secretary, as the case may be, at the district level and the state level and the application and the reports thereon shall be made accessible simultaneously to the Central Government on online portal,” the order said.
“The Collector or the Secretary, as the case may be, on being satisfied with the suitability of the applicant, grants him the citizenship of India by registration or naturalisation and issues a certificate of registration or naturalisation, as the case may be, duly printed from online portal and signed by the Collector or the Secretary, as the case may be, in the Form as prescribed in the said rules,” the notification said.
It has asked the Collector and Secretary to maintain an online as well as physical register, containing details of the person registered or naturalised as a citizen of India and furnish a copy to the Central Government within seven days of registration or naturalisation.
In 2018, the Government had granted similar powers to Collectors and Home Secretaries of states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi with regard to certain districts.
In December 2019, the Parliament amended the Citizenship Act granting citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddhist communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — but not Muslims. The legislation was passed amid strong criticism from the Opposition, which called it discriminatory, and triggered massive nationwide protests.
The MHA has been deliberating on framing the CAA rules for over a year without any headway, sources said.
“The rules are essential for implementation of the Act. The rules are supposed to specify the kind of documents that would be needed to prove whether the applicant came from these countries to India before the cut off date (December 31, 2014) or not. Most illegal immigrants have entered the country without any travel documents,” sources said.