CAA will not end in illegal migrants’ expulsion, MHA tells Supreme Court

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India building in New Delhi. File  

The ‘benign’ Act merely offers ‘amnesty’ without hurting India’s secularism., says Ministry

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was a “benign” law, which did not lead to expulsion or refoulement of illegal migrants, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA ) told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Also read | MHA clarifies on citizenship to migrants from three nations

Other laws dealt with the expulsion of illegal migrants. The CAA, on the other hand, merely offered “amnesty” without hurting India’s secularism. It relaxed the settled principles of Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians persecuted in the “theocratic States” of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the MHA said. The CAA, however, does not cover persecuted Muslims from these countries.

But the MHA argued that “the country was divided primarily on the basis of religion with no fault of citizens” in 1947 and these six persecuted minorities have been suffering historical injustice in the three countries. “India represents the sole rational and logically feasible place to seek shelter for these communities,” it said in a reply spanning over 130 pages in the apex court.

The Ministry said the “numerous military regimes” in Pakistan, the civil wars and Taliban in Afghanistan and the “horrific civil war” that led to the creation of Bangladesh accentuated the existing religious persecution of these six communities. India was their natural place of return.

Dismisses fears on NRC

The MHA dismissed fears about the CAA facilitating a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) to expel “doubtful citizens”. Section 14A of the Citizenship Act of 1955, which provides for the preparation of NRC and issuance of national identity cards, was introduced way back in 2004. The section, along with the Citizenship Rules of 2003, dealt only with the “process” of registration of Indian citizens and issuance of national identity cards. They did not arm the Executive with powers to strip a person of his citizenship. Legal rights and citizenship regime would continue as before, it said.

Nevertheless, the preparation of a NRC was a must, the MHA argued. “The preparation of a National Register of Citizens is a necessary exercise for any sovereign country for mere identification of citizens from non-citizens,” it said.

Besides, the Centre had an “unfettered discretion” concerning deportation of illegal migrants as per due process of law. Illegal migrants cannot file PILs in the Supreme Court claiming citizenship. Indian citizens also cannot file PIL demanding freedom of expression (Article 19) or right to religious non-discrimination (Article 15) for illegal migrants “at large” in the country or foreigners outside India.

The MHA said international conventions or treaties cannot be used to test the CAA’s legality in the Supreme Court. Besides, India was neither a signatory to nor had ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967 Protocol. Recently, the UN Human Right Commissioner filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court to intervene in the CAA case.

Exclusion of other sects

The government said the exclusion of other persecuted sects in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan like the Ahamadis, Shias, Bahaiis, etc, from the CAA was not discriminatory.

“Intra-religious or sectarian persecution or persecution due to non-recognition of particular sects to be within the fold of majority religion in these countries, cannot be equated with the persecution of religious minorities...” the MHA reasoned.

On why Rohingya, Sri Lankan Tamils or Tibetan Buddhists did not find a place in the CAA , the MHA justified that “the CAA is not meant to be an omnibus solution to issues across the world”.

Finally, on the choice of three countries - Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan – for the CAA, the government said they formed a “class” as they followed a “specific State religion within the neighbourhood of India”.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:27:33 PM |

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