The Centre has empowered 13 districts across 3 states to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh on Friday.
In 2016, 16 district collectors were given the power to accept citizenship application under sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act of 1955. The latest order grants the same power to 13 more districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab, taking the total districts to 29.
“In exercise of powers conferred under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (57 of 1955), the central government hereby directs that powers exercisable by it for registration as 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, residing in the districts mentioned and the states mentioned below…," the MHA notification said.
The order means Pakistani, Afghani and Bangladeshi nationals who are currently in India on long term visa can apply for citizenship in the districts Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara in Gujarat; Durg and Balodabazar in Chhattisgarh; Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi in Rajasthan; Faridabad in Haryana; and Jalandhar in Punjab.
Additionally, the Home Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana have also been empowered to process such applications.
The citizenship ammendment act passed by parliament in 2019 made provisions for Indian citizenship to non-Muslim, persecuted minorities namely those from Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian communities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan if they had come to India till December 31, 2014.
The process of granting citizenship under this act has however not begun since rules are yet to be framed.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said during Vengal election campaign that the CAA rules will be framed after the covid vaccination process was completed. The latest notification does not include any district in Bengal or Assam where CAA has seen protests and politics around it.
MHA officials told News18 that the decision to empower the notified districts was taken after specific representations from these states. “The number of applications from these districts, of migrants seeking Indian citizenship was growing. Center recieved representations from these states and hence a decision was taken to allow collectors or home secretaries to consider these," an official said.
“The application for registration as citizen of India or grant of certificate of naturalisation as citizen of India under the said rules (Citizenship Rules, 2009) shall be made by the applicant online," the notification said.
The home ministry said the verification of the application is done simultaneously by collector or secretary (Home) of Haryana and Punjab 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 Centre on an online portal.
The collector or the secretary, as the case may be, makes such inquiry as he considers necessary for ascertaining the suitability of the applicant and for that purpose forwards the application online to such agencies for verification and comments as may be required for completing such an inquiry and the instructions issued by the Centre from time-to-time in this regard shall be strictly complied with by state or union territory and district concerned, it said.
The comments of the agencies referred to in clause (C) are uploaded online by such agencies and accessible to the collector or the secretary, as the case may be, and the central government.
The collector or the secretary on being satisfied with the suitability of the applicant, will grant him the citizenship of India by registration or naturalisation and issue a certificate of registration or naturalisation, as the case may be, duly printed from online portal and signed by the collector or the secretary in the form as prescribed in the said rules, the notification said.
The collector or the secretary shall maintain an online as well as physical register, in accordance with the said rules, containing the details of the person registered or naturalised as a citizen of India and furnish a copy thereof to the central government within seven days of such registration or naturalisation, it said.
“This order shall come into force on the date of its publication in the official gazette and shall remain valid until further orders," the notification said.