Supreme Court refuses to intervene now in citizenship issue

Petition seeks to quash a series of subordinate laws

January 14, 2019 01:41 pm | Updated 10:21 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. File

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. File

The Supreme Court on Monday refused immediate intervention in a petition seeking to quash a series of subordinate laws notified by the government, which allows the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The court pointed out that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is still under consideration of the Parliament and the court should not step in at this stage. The court agreed to keep the petition pending.

The Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi pointed out that the petition would become infructuous if the Bill, already passed in the Lok Sabha, gets Rajya Sabha assent.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill proposes to amend the original Citizenship Act of 1955 vintage. It mandates that those who cross the border to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and belong to “minority communities”, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians will not be treated as illegal immigrants despite having entered India without valid or on expired travel documents.

Thus, they would not face deportation as illegal immigrants under the Passport (Entry into India) Act of 1920 and the Foreigners Act of 1946. Illegal immigrants from these six communities, including Hindus, who are in majority in India, are assured a smooth sail to citizenship over their counterparts.

The current petition filed by Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha and some others contended that the leeway offered by the subordinate laws would further multiple the “uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam”. The illegal immigration, it claimed, has caused huge demographic changes in the northeastern State.

The petitioners have urged the apex court to declare the amendments made through the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015; the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 and the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 26, 2016 under the Citizenship Act, allowing the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, as “illegal and invalid”. These subordinate laws serve the same purpose as the proposed Bill.

The petition branded the move of the government to differentiate “illegal immigrants” on the basis of their religion and grant them naturalisation as “communally motivated humanitarianism.”

The petition said while religious persecution may, in the given facts and circumstances, be a reasonable principle for differentiation, it cannot be articulated in a manner that dilutes the republican and secular foundations of citizenship in India. Such differentiation on the ground of religion goes against constitutional morality, the petition said.

The petition asked the court to direct the government to constitute a National Immigration Commission or any other appropriate body to frame a National Immigration Policy and a National Refugee Policy.

It urged the court to order the Union to take effective steps for conservation and preservation of the distinct culture, heritage and traditions of the indigenous people of Assam as per the Assam Accord.

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