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March 28, 2024

“New CAA Rules: Local Priests Authorized to Issue ‘Eligibility Certificates’ for Citizenship Validation, Reveals Report”

Less than a month before the Lok Sabha elections of 2024, the Union Government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has released the rules governing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019. A recent report by The Hindu sheds light on a significant provision within these rules, suggesting that local priests may now be empowered to issue “eligibility certificates” for validating applicants’ religious status, as disclosed through responses from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ CAA helpline.

The certificate, deemed mandatory, must accompany an affidavit and other requisite documents to be uploaded on the CAA portal. Applicants are also required to articulate their reasons for seeking Indian citizenship.

Enacted to expedite Indian citizenship for members of six minority communities hailing from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, the CAA aims to ensure the resettlement of persecuted minorities who have endured years of oppression in their home countries.

In an effort to provide assistance and information regarding the CAA, the Ministry introduced the helpline number 1032 on March 21, enabling toll-free calls from any location in India between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

According to The Hindu’s report, inquiries made to the helpline on March 26 revealed that the eligibility certificate could be issued on either a blank sheet of paper or judicial paper with a stamp value of ₹10. Moreover, the report highlighted that “any local pujari (priest)” could be designated to issue these certificates, although the Ministry had not initially specified the designated authority or body for this task.

Furthermore, the report indicates that any institution with the trust of the people can issue the certificate, although the final decision on citizenship rests with the empowered committee, thereby emphasizing the recommending role of local institutions in establishing an applicant’s religious affiliation.

Eligibility for citizenship under the CAA Act extends to individuals who migrated to India before December 31, 2014, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh due to religious persecution, provided they belong to one of the six specified religious minorities: Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian.

In addition to the documents stipulated in Section 6B of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rules, supplementary requirements have been outlined. Applicants are now obligated to submit an affidavit affirming the accuracy of their application information, along with a separate affidavit from an Indian citizen attesting to the applicant’s character. Furthermore, applicants must declare their proficiency in one of the languages specified in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution, ensuring thorough verification and adherence to the eligibility criteria outlined in the CAA regulations.

The recent revelations regarding the authorization of local priests to issue eligibility certificates underscore the evolving landscape of citizenship validation under the CAA, prompting further scrutiny and debate regarding the implementation and implications of the Act in the Indian socio-political context.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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