Amendment bill on citizenship goes to joint parliamentary panel

New Delhi, Aug 11 (IANS) The Centre on Thursday agreed to the opposition demand to refer the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, to a joint committee of Parliament.

Among other issues, the bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to provide that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will “not be treated as illegal migrants”.

The joint panel will have 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha.

The 2016 bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on July 19.

Responding to the objections from members of the Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, Singh said: “If members wish to refer the bill to a Joint Committee of Parliament, the government has no objections.”

The Act of 1955 provides for various ways in which Indian citizenship may be acquired — by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of territory into India.

In the afternoon session, moving the resolution to refer the bill to the Joint Committee of Parliament, the Home Minister said the panel has been asked to submit its report by the last day of the first week of the winter session, which usually begins in the third week of November.

The resolution also urged the Upper House to nominate 10 members to the committee.

The Lok Sabha members include Satyapal Singh, Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, Meenakshi Lekhi, Kirit Solanki, Ramen Deka and Virendra Kumar (all BJP), Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena), Sushmita Dev and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress), B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal), Mohammed Salim (CPI-M), Saugata Roy (Trinamool) and B. Vinod Kumar (Telangana Rashtra Samithi).

When the resolution on the setting up of the joint committee was passed by a voice vote, Asaduddin Owaisi of AIMIM opposed it, saying smaller parties have been left out of the panel.

Earlier, during Zero Hour, soon after the papers were laid on the table of the Lower House, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed BJD’s Mahtab to raise his objections regarding its introduction.

“This bill needs proper scrutiny. Specific amendments have been listed in it. It needs a proper discussion. I would request the government to form a joint committee and refer the matter to it. The panel should discuss the matter in a time-bound manner,” Mahtab said.

Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “We support this bill but there are many shortcomings… so, the matter should either be referred to a Joint Committee or the Parliamentary Standing Committee.”

Mohammad Salim of the CPI-M and Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool also made similar demands.

Aiming at providing succour to refugees from neighbouring countries, the government had last month introduced the bill to amend the Citizenship Act so that Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan could be granted citizenship even if they do not provide the required documents.



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