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31 DMs empowered to grant citizenship to minorities of Pak, Afghanistan, Bangladesh: Govt

The central government has empowered 31 district magistrates in nine states to grant citizenship to people belonging to minority communities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh under the Citizenship Act, according to Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai. The delegation of this power is aimed at speedy disposal of the citizenship applications of such foreigners as decisions can now be taken at the district level itself after examining each case, Rai said in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

These districts have been chosen keeping in view the needs of applicants, he said.

“The central government, in exercise of powers conferred by Section 16 of The Citizenship Act, 1955, has delegated its power to grant citizenship by registration under Section 5 and by naturalisation under Section 6 of The Citizenship Act, 1955 to the Collectors of 31 Districts… for speedy disposal of citizenship applications of person(s) belonging to minority communities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh namely, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian,” Rai said.

The 31 districts are in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi.

The move to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and not under the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) bears significance.

The CAA also provides for granting Indian citizenship to these non-Muslims coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, the rules under the CAA have not been framed by the government yet and hence no one has been granted Indian citizenship under it so far.