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Report says banks may introduce a religion column in KYC forms, govt denies

The KYC (know your customer) forms at banks might soon get a new column that will require its clients to mention their religion, said a media report which added to the voices around the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

But in a late evening clarification issued by the government, Finance Secretary Rajeev Kumar denied any such move. “There is no requirement for Indian citizens to declare their religion for opening/existing bank account or for KYC. Do not fall for baseless rumours about any such move by banks,” said Kumar in a tweet.

The TOI report said that the move was in the light of recent changes made to Fema Act regulation, which appear quite similar to the Citizenship Amendment Act, that has made possible for immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to open a bank account in India and hold property.

Fema Act regulations extend the benefits of opening NRO accounts and holding property to select religious minorities, excluding Muslims and atheists, said the TOI report.

Immigrants (of all religion) from other nations such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet, are also excluded.

The amendments issued last year are limited to migrants, who are from minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and hold long-term visas (LTVs).

The long-term visas holders can buy residential property and open bank accounts in India, added the report.

The said NRO account shall be converted to a resident account once the person becomes a citizen of India within the meaning of the Citizenship Act, 1955, according to the amendment to Schedule 3 of the Fema (Deposit) regulations.

At present, the KYC forms for bank savings and current accounts have no column for religion and only ask for nationality.

Several activists and lawyers termed this amendment as outrageous and unconstitutional saying religion has nothing to do with banking formalities.

According to them, it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

The story and the headline have been updated to incorporate a statement issued by the Finance Secretary.

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