The Centre will notify the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act before the Lok Sabha elections are announced, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday quoting an unidentified government official.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities except Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

The rules of the citizenship law, however, have not been published yet, even though parliamentary guidelines say they must be established within six months of an Act coming into force.

The Union home ministry has sought extensions eight times to frame the rules since the law was enacted. It had initially cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the delay and subsequently said that framing the rules needed more consultation.

A government official told The Indian Express that the rules were now ready and an online portal has been set up to allow applicants to apply even using their mobile phones.

“The applicants will have to declare the year when they entered India without travel documents,” the official told the newspaper. “No document will be sought from the applicants. Requests of the applicants, who had applied after 2014, will be converted as per the new rules.”

The official was also quoted as saying that while the Centre has taken eight extensions to frame the rules, “In the last two years, over 30 district magistrates and home secretaries of nine states have been given powers to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan under the Citizenship Act of 1955”.

An unidentified home ministry official told The Hindu that Pakistani Hindus, who had entered India legally and whose documents expired while they awaited citizenship, will also be eligible to apply online under the new law.

However, the government portal does not accept expired Pakistani passports, forcing those seeking Indian citizenship to apply to the Pakistan High Commission to get their passports renewed, according to The Hindu.

Seemant Lok Sangathan, a group that advocates for the rights of Pakistani minority migrants in India, said that around 80,000 applications from Pakistani Hindus are pending with the authorities.

“In Rajasthan, there are 35,000 people whose citizenship application is pending,” the group’s chief Hindu Singh Sodha told the newspaper. “All these people came on valid papers and visas post-2010. They have been waiting for citizenship for more than 10 years.”

The government official told The Hindu that if needed, the government can make changes to the law to extend the 2014 cutoff date.

The Citizenship Amendment Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, sparking massive protests across the country in late 2019 and early 2020. Indian Muslims fear that the law could be used along with the nationwide National Register of Citizens to harass and disenfranchise them. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed exercise to identify undocumented immigrants.

While protests against the Act in the rest of India have revolved around the law’s alleged anti-Muslim bias, ethnic groups in Assam and the rest of the North East fear they will be physically and culturally swamped by migrants from Bangladesh.