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Petitions pour into SC against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in New Delhi on December 13, 2019.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in New Delhi on December 13, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AFP

The clutch of petitions received by the SC showed the Central contention that the Act, meant to provide “benefits” to immigrants fleeing religious persecution, actually ends up dividing them on the basis of faith and nationality of origin.

Parliamentarians, activists, NGOs, former Service officers and others from various walks of life filed petitions one after the other in the Supreme Court on Friday, challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which was notified as law around midnight by the President.

The Supreme Court Registry received a steady stream of petitions challenging the various aspects of the law. But they all showed the Central contention that the Act, meant to provide “benefits” to immigrants fleeing religious persecution, actually ends up dividing them on the basis of faith and nationality of origin.

Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia, M.P. from Barpeta Abdul Khaleque, and Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi were among those who moved the court.

‘A clueless Act’

Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said the Act created an “unconstitutional exclusionary regime”. In his petitio, he submitted, “It promotes rather than checks illegal migration and is inextricably intertwined with the bizarre concept of a national 'National Register of Citizens', as it does not even attempt to address the humanitarian and logistical issues of excluding millions and is clueless as to where to house them, where to deport them and how to deal with them.”

Trinamool Congress party MP Mahua Moitra, who mentioned her petition through advocate Shiva Santosh Yelamanchili before a Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde for early hearing, said the Act violates the fundamental guarantees under Articles 14 (right to equality) 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

Mr. Ramesh argued that the “Act not only creates a class within a class of people fleeing religious persecution but also creates a group of people who would be rendered stateless”. He said, “The Act suffers from arbitrariness on the ground that in the Joint Parliamentary Report on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, the government has admitted that there are only 31,313 persons belonging to minority communities (Hindus - 25447, Sikhs - 5807, Christians - 55, Buddhists – 2 and Parsis - 2) who have been accommodated under this ‘religious test’ and thus have been given long-term visa on the basis of their claim of religious persecution in these three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and want Indian citizenship and hence would benefit from the Citizenship Amendment Act.”

‘Violates Assam Accord’

The petitioners said the Act also violated the Assam Accord of August 15, 1985.

They questioned how classification of immigrants on the basis of religion and geography in any way helps the cause of providing shelter, safety and citizenship to religiously persecuted immigrants.

Some of the petitioners include the Peace Party, Rihai Manch, Citizens Against Hate, Ehtesham Hashmi, Pradyot Deb Barman, the Jan Adhikaar Party, law students from the Symbiosis law school and the All Assam Students’ Union.

One of the pleas said, “The history of the world is the history of women, men, and children, who have been made strangers in their own land, and of societies and nations that have offered them shelter in their times of greatest need.” However, the new citizenship law stated that refugees and asylum seekers belonging to the right religion (Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Parsi, and Buddhist) and the right country of origin (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh) would be granted amnesty from prosecution as illegal migrants, and set on the fast track to citizenship, it said.

“Refugees and asylum seekers from the wrong religion and the wrong countries must individually prove their worthiness to belong, and are granted neither amnesty nor citizenship... The Act violates every known principle of equality and equal treatment, damages and destroys the Constitution’s basic feature of secularism, and ought to be struck down as unconstitutional,” the petition said.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 5:31:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/petitions-pour-into-sc-against-the-contentious-citizenship-amendment-act/article30300215.ece

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