The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Centre on five new petitions challenging the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Over 150 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the law based on the alleged discrimination against Muslims.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde tagged the matter with 160-odd similar petitions challenging the validity of the act and already pending before the court. These 160-odd were filed before the March 25 lockdown.
The apex court has already issued a notice to the Centre on the earlier petitions. Some of these petitions have challenged the entire new citizenship matrix, including any move to update the National Register of Citizens or the National Population Register.
Among the five latest petitioners are the All Assam Students Union (Aasu); Muslim Students Federation, Assam; and the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath.
Most of the new and old petitions have challenged the Citizenship Amendment Act’s exclusion of Muslims from the list of persecuted minorities to be granted fast-tracked citizenship, and that of non-Muslim neighbouring countries from the list of nations whose persecuted minorities may be so welcomed.
Aasu’s petition, however, argues the act is unconstitutional because it facilitates citizenship for illegal migrants who entered the country on or before December 31, 2014.
It says the act contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985 and Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, inserted in keeping with the 1985 agreement.
Under the Assam accord, all immigrants who entered Assam from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported..
The petitioner, All Assam Law Students Union, submitted that the CAA dilutes the constitutional and legal safeguards given to the Assamese people by various laws and the Assam Accord of 1985.
The CAA which was passed in December 2019 amends Section 2 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, which defines “illegal migrants”. According to change in definition, any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, and who have been exempted by the Central Government under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Act, 1946, shall not be treated as “illegal migrant”. Consequently, such persons shall be eligible to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, which is laid down under Section 6 of the 1955 act.
The exclusion of the Muslim community from the benefits of CAA had led to widespread protests across the country, as did the linking of citizenship with religion. There have also been protests against a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
However, the challenge mounted by All Assam Law Students Union is based on the impact the CAA could have on the Assamese identity and how it violates various laws and agreements enacted by the union government to identify and deport illegal migrants and preserve Assamese identity.
The petitioner claimed that the CAA makes section 6A of the Citizenship Act and the Assam Accord meaningless. It would enable illegal immigrants to become Indian citizens and the entire process set up by the Assam Accord and section 6A would be diluted.
“Bringing outsiders or including the illegal immigrants as citizens shall worsen the situation and cause serious after-effects in the cultural, economical, social and political genre of Assam,” the petition said.