CAA Rules open the door to dual citizenship by not requiring renunciation of previous citizenship, anti-CAA petitioners tell SC

Dual citizenship would violate Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Constitution; petitioners question CAA claim to help persecuted minorities, as Ahmadiyyas, Rohingyas, Sri Lankan Tamils all excluded

April 06, 2024 08:48 pm | Updated April 07, 2024 06:04 am IST - NEW DELHI

Members of All Assam Student Union (AASU) during a protest march after the central government notified the rules for implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in Sonitpur. FIle

Members of All Assam Student Union (AASU) during a protest march after the central government notified the rules for implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in Sonitpur. FIle | Photo Credit: PTI

The Rules of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act do not require foreign applicants to effectively renounce the citizenship of their native country, creating a possibility for dual citizenship which is directly violative of the Citizenship Act, petitioners argued in the Supreme Court.

Written submissions filed by the petitioners ahead of the April 9 hearing of their plea to stay the CAA Rules, which were notified on March 11, said that Section 9 of the Citizenship Act of 1955 and Article 9 of the Constitution both clearly and explicitly prohibit the acquisition of dual citizenship.

The CAA aims to grant fast-tracked Indian citizenship to “illegal migrants” belonging to persecuted members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan who had entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

But the petitioners, led by the Indian Union Muslim League, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Haris Beeran, said that the 2024 Rules are rife with defects, and have even overlooked the fact that “effective renunciation of citizenship was an important prerequisite for granting citizenship in cases where the nationality of another country is clearly attributable to the applicant”.

Allowing dual citizenship, one of them being Indian, makes the Rules both “ultra vires and manifestly arbitrary”, they submitted.

Ahmadiyyas, Rohingya excluded

The petitioners noted that a presumption of religious persecution is inherent in the CAA. The Union government views the law as a succour for refugees who fled persecution from the target countries with state religions.

But only a “selected group” of such migrants are eligible for the benefits of CAA, the petitioners said. Excluded refugee groups continue to remain illegal migrants, barred from seeking Indian citizenship under any mode.

“Even while including Pakistan in the list of countries, it fails to extend protection to [the] Ahmadiyya community which is one of the most persecuted groups in Pakistan. It similarly excludes rationalists, atheists and agnostic persons who do not profess any religion,” the petitioners submitted.

Refugees from Myanmar are excluded, though the country was a part of British India till 1935, and though the International Court of Justice had found that genocide was perpetrated there against Muslim Rohingya refugees who are presently, due to persecution, living in India under abject conditions under threat of deportation.

‘Fundamentally flawed’

The CAA and its Rules exclude Sri Lanka, a neighbouring country where Tamil Hindus are under persecution.

“It excludes China which is a border country where Buddhists and Uighur Muslims are persecuted. It excludes Jews who have experienced discrimination over decades,” the petitioners pointed out.

While the Statement of Objects and Reasons of CAA mentions ‘Partition’ and ‘undivided India’ as the reason for the selection of non-Muslims as a protected class of refugees, the CAA included Afghanistan which was not a part of undivided India, they said.

“Thus, it is ex facie clear that the foundational claim that the CAA aims to extend citizenship benefits to persecuted minorities is fundamentally flawed, and that it fails to as it arbitrarily chooses between persecuted groups of different kinds. This is not merely an issue of underinclusion per se. Rather, the exclusions demonstrate the lack of any rational nexus to the stated object of enacting a refugee policy,” the written submissions noted.

They highlighted that citizenship was the “right to have rights”. Discriminatory criteria in the grant of citizenship raise especially serious constitutional issues, they said.

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