Sixth Schedule regions exempt from Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Constitutional provision is aimed at protecting identity of tribal-dominated regions

  • After the Union Cabinet cleared the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday, the proposed legislation is all set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

  • The legislation, however, was cleared permitting exemption to a large part of the North East region from applicability of the proposed law.

  • Amid the ongoing debate over the bill, it is important to understand what Inner Line Permit Regime Areas are.

After the Union Cabinet cleared the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday, the proposed legislation is all set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Bill states: "Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause c of sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purpose of this Act."

Criticising it, the Opposition, mostly the Congress trained guns at the Centre claiming that the citizenship bill goes against the secular ethos of the Constitution as it effectively bars persecuted Muslims in these countries from becoming Indian citizens.

 Sixth Schedule regions exempt from Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Constitutional provision is aimed at protecting identity of tribal-dominated regions

Tribal women at a rally in Tripura against the citizenship bill. Reuters

However, given the dynamics of the northeastern region, the inner line permit areas in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh along with areas falling under the Sixth Schedule in the region have been are excluded from the purview of this Bill.

The Bill states, "Nothing in this section shall apply to Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and to the areas covered under the inner line notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873."

Amid the ongoing debate over the bill, it is important to understand what Inner Line Permit Regime Areas are.

What is the clause – Inner Line Permit?

Currently prevalent in Nagaland, Arunachal and Mizoram, the Inner Line Permit (ILP) mandates that citizens of other states visiting these areas would require the document of ILP, stipulating the areas they can visit and the period for which they would visit the areas.

The reason behind the restriction is because these areas are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution speaks about the autonomous councils and districts created in the tribal areas of Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram, which enjoy several legislative and executive powers.

While the ILP is only limited to three states, under the sixth schedule there are ten areas across the North East. These ten areas include three each from Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and one from Tripura.

What is Sixth Schedule of the Constitution?

In tribal-dominated areas in the above-mentioned northeastern states, as per Article 244, the Governor is empowered to increase or decrease the areas or change the names of the autonomous districts.

The Acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions. The Councils have also been endowed with wide civil and criminal judicial powers, like establishing village courts etc. However, the jurisdiction of these councils is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.

The 10 autonomous district councils in four states are: 

1) Assam: Bodoland Territorial Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council

2) Meghalaya: Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council and Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council

3) Tripura: Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council

4) Mizoram: Chakma Autonomous District Council, Lai Autonomous District Council, Mara Autonomous District Council

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Updated Date: Dec 05, 2019 21:21:35 IST