India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019

This House of Lords Library Briefing contains a selection of material relevant for the forthcoming debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, passed on 11 December 2019, on UK citizens, and what representations they have made, if any, to the government of India as a result”.

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In December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019. The Act amended the law to fast-track citizenship for religious minorities, specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India prior to 2015. However, the Act does not extend to Muslim minorities, for example: the Ahmadiyya from Pakistan; the Rohingya from Myanmar; and the Tamil from Sri Lanka.

Opponents of the Act have claimed that it is unconstitutional as it links citizenship to religion and marginalises India’s Muslim population. However, the Government has argued that the law protects religious minorities.

The Act has been referred to the Indian Supreme Court. In January 2020, the court said it would not put the implementation of the law on hold but asked the Government to respond to the petitions challenging the law’s constitutional validity within a month.

Some Indian states have announced that they will not implement the law. However, the Government has stated that states have a “constitutional duty” to do so.

The Act has led to widespread protests, with activists and human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, criticising the police and the Government for the response.

In response to a series of written questions, the UK Government has said that the British High Commission in New Delhi and its network of deputy high commissions are following reports of the protests and the Indian Government’s response to them. It also stated that it has raised issues relating to the Act with the Minister of State for External Affairs in December 2019 and the High Commission in India in London in January 2020.

Concerns about the Act have also been raised internationally. The United Nations has described it as “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has referred to the Act as “a dangerous turn in the wrong direction”.

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