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Ctizenship Bill in limbo as JPC could not come to consensus

Ctizenship Bill in limbo as JPC could not come to consensus

New Delhi: As no consensus evolved in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) meeting on Tuesday on the issue of Citizenship (amendment) Bill 2016 for allowing migrated Hindus from neighbouring countries for citizenship, the report on the bill would not be submitted in the winter session of the parliament. But BJP is adamant to bring this legislation before the Lok Sabha poll.

It's learnt that the government may bring an ordinance on this bill before the poll. But the issue remained inconclusive with Congress MPs of Assam suggesting that North-east should be kept out of the out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. And TMC MP Sougata roy suggested Bangladesh be kept out of from the bill.

The JPC meeting on Tuesday was marked by confusion as Chairman Rajendra Agrawal in his opening remarks suggested that due to paucity of time, it may not be possible for the JPC to submit its report and hence the government may not be able to bring Bill.

However, the opposition MPs opposed the chairman's views and said that the JPC should submit its report. A member of the JPC told this newspaper that they suspect that the government may take advantage of the situation and instead introduce an Ordinance.

Sources said that Bhubanesar Kalita who spoke from the opposition side while expressing his opposition to the to Bill made a strong plea that the North-east should be kept out of the purview of the Bill, given the opposition to the Bill in the Region.

He was joined Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress, who suggested that Bangladesh may be kept out of the purview of the Bill and then it can be cleared with rest of the provisions that proposes to give citizenship to migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sources said that the three government ministries Home Affairs, External Affairs and Law and Justice did not make any submission instead took down the questions asked by the members.

The three ministries were asked to give written replies to the questions asked by the MPs by October 30.

Sources confided that while MHA had supported the Bill and was in its favour, the Ministry of External Affairs had conveyed that it was not consulted by the government on the Bill. It had also pointed out that there were international ramifications of the Bill, as neighbouring Bangladesh might take it to international forum.

However, on Tuesday the MEA retracted its views and informed the JPC that it was consulted by the government.

Similarly, the Ministry of Law and Justice had said that it was a badly drafted piece of legislation and may not stand legal scrutiny. Sources said that given the divergent views, the members suggested that a report on the legal validity of the Bill should be sought from the Attorney General

Other Members also suggested to the chairman that legal experts should also be invited to make submissions before the JPC, said sources.

According to sources, Chairman Rajendra Agrawal indicated his preference for deferring the Bill because there was little time to go ahead with rest of the process. However, key BJP members from Assam Kamakhya Tassa and Ramen Deka were absent. Deka was in Beijing. Swapan Dasgupta who was present at the meeting was non committal, said sources

It was now decided that the Congress MPs who are members of the JPC would sit and finalise their stand in consultation with Party's central leadership.

Derek O Brien who was also absent sent a message supporting deferring the Bill. The CPI-M's Mohammad Salim opposed the Bill.

Sources said that most of the MPs pointed out to the chairman about paucity of time for the JPC to finalise the report.

Meanwhile, talking to newsmen Mohammad Salim said that the JPC should have visited Assam for the second time to take submissions. He also underlined the need for the Committee to talks to the people of Assam and Tripura. However, the JPC has to take a final call in this regard, he said.

"But now, the government wants to bring the Bill," he observed.

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