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Parliament passes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015

On Wednesday, the Parliament successfully passed the bill which sought to amend the Citizenship Act which is purported to synchronise and foster parity between the provisions for Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizens of India cardholders. Earlier, the Government had introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015 in the form of an ordinance. It is one of the six matters on which the present government has promulgated ordinances in its tenure till date.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill had been passed by the LokSabha on Monday and adopted in RajyaSabha vis-à-vis a voice vote. Even though the opposition did not have any issues with the substance of the Bill, it took on the government for taking recourse to the ordinance route for enforcing the said amendment. A statutory motion moved by TMC MP Derek O’ Brien, while criticizing the government’s methodology, noted that though he does not have a problem with the content of the bill as the merger of PIO/OCI cardholders makes for an intelligent idea, the government should not have tried to by-pass the legislative process as such an action is vastly inappropriate if not unsavoury.

The government was further upbraided and chided for promulgating too many ordinances and by-passing appropriate procedure one too many times. Mr. O’ Brien pointed out that the during the BJP government’s last nine months, the ration of ordinances to properly introduced bills, is 4 to 10. The MP went on to argue how low the ratio was during the tenure of other governments.

In response, Mr.KirenRijiju, the Minister of State for Home Affairs argued that the ordinance promulgating the amendment was meant to honour PM Modi’s commitment to the delegations of US and Australia, that PIO and OCI cards will be merged before January 9 of this year. January 9 marks the centenary of the return of Mahatama Gandhi from South Africa to India. According to Mr.Rijiju, the objection that the bill should not have been introduced as an ordinance is merely “an issue of sentiment”.

Mr.Rijiju pointed out that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015 offers a great amount of benefits, especially to those holding Overseas Citizens of India cards. The amendment proposes to extend the benefits of the PIO scheme to OCI cardholders. In accordance with the merger, there will be a grant of recognition to the great grandchildren of Overseas Citizens. This recognition had earlier been limited to only the grandchildren of OCI cardholders.

by Siddhartha Singh.