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JPC on citizenship Bill may visit State in Feb
 NEW DELHI, Jan 3 - The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is likely to visit Assam next month.The first meeting of the JPC under new chairman Rajendra Agrawal here today decided that the panel would visit West Bengal, Assam and Odisha.

The meeting also decided to take legal opinion on the writ petition pending before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The apex court had constituted a five-judge Constitution Bench on the questions referred to it by a two-judge bench.

Altogether 13 issues relating to validity of the Assam Accord and Clause 6A of the Citizenship Act were referred to the Constitution Bench. Some of the petitioners include Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, All Assam Ahom Association, Dr Deepak Nath, Asam Sahitya Sabha and Purbanchal Hindusthani Sanmelan.

“The JPC wishes to seek legal opinion about the pending case in the Supreme Court. Further some members also suggested that the committee should seek opinion on the legal position on granting citizenship, which is the prerogative of the government,” sources said.

A member of the JPC said the new chairman was suggested that the committee should first visit Assam to take stock of the ground realities. Congress MP Sushmita Dev reiterated her demand that the JPC should also tour Barak valley. On the other hand, a BJP MP suggested that the committee needs to first visit West Bengal, sources added.

The JPC then evolved a consensus that it would be fruitful if it visits Assam after the NRC issue settles down, a member told this newspaper. “The committee has decided to visit the Northeast,” the member said.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has generated much heat because of the government’s bid to grant citizenship to Hindu Bengalis, among few other communities, who have migrated to India owing to religious persecution in their respective countries. In case of Assam, the issue has triggered a controversy because the cut-off date as stipulated in the Assam Accord is sought to be changed in case of the Hindu Bengalis to December 31, 2014.

The NDA government on July 19 last tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 making nationals of various countries, including Bangladesh, eligible for acquiring Indian citizenship. The Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh proposes to make minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for applying for Indian citizenship.

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