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The Union Home Ministry recently notified an order to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan residing in Gujarat’s Anand and Mehsana districts.
Current Affairs Important Points
What is the latest MHA Order on Citizenship?
- The Home Ministry notification grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan living in Gujarat’s Anand and Mehsana districts.
- The order empowers the District Collector to grant citizenship to these minorities under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The latest notification provides benefits under Section 5 (by registration) and Section 6 (naturalization) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to migrants who have entered India through a passport or visa and have already applied for citizenship.
- To implement this order, an online application will be made available to the migrants. The verification is taken up by the District Collector and then forwarded to the central government agencies.
- Candidates who apply for Indian citizenship are investigated by the Intelligence Bureau.
Is this the first time that citizenship is given to religious minorities of neighboring countries?
- This is not the first time that magistrates or collectors have been given the power to grant citizenship to religious minorities who entered India legally from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. In 2016, 2018 and 2021, the central government issued similar orders to district collectors in several districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.
- In 2016 and 2018, the District Collectors of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Kutch were empowered to grant citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In August 2022, the Gujarat Home Minister distributed Indian citizenship certificates to 40 Pakistani Hindus at the Ahmedabad Collectorate. In 2022, 107 Pakistani Hindus were granted Indian citizenship by the Ahmedabad District Collector.
How is the latest MHA order different from CAA?
- The MHA order dated October 31, 2022 grants citizenship under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and not under the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) aims to grant citizenship to six undocumented migrant minority communities who arrived in India till December 31, 2014.
- The CAA seeks to fast-track migrant applications by reducing the mandatory requirement of an overall stay in India of 11 years. 5 years under Section 6 of the Act.
How is Indian citizenship granted to immigrants from abroad?
- Citizenship is a central theme. Under current rules, India grants citizenship to legal immigrants who apply under Sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- Under Section 5 of the Act, citizenship is granted by the Central Government to:
- A person of Indian origin who has been ordinarily resident in India for the past 7 years before applying for citizenship
- A person of Indian origin ordinarily resident in any country or place outside undivided India
- A person married to an Indian citizen
- A person of full age and capacity, or one of his parents, is a citizen of independent India and has resided in India for one year prior to applying for citizenship.
- Under Section 6, a person can acquire Indian citizenship by naturalization if he/she has ordinarily resided in India for 12 years and fulfills all the qualifications mandated under the Third Schedule of the Citizenship Act.