Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to all petitions challenging the Constitutional Validity of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
The Bench comprising CJI Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant asked the Centre to file the response by the second week of January.
The Petitions contended that the Act, which liberalizes and fast-tracks grant of citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, promotes religion-based discrimination.
As per the petition, a purely religious classification, devoid of any determining principle, violates the fundamental constitutional value of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution. The exclusion of Muslims from the Act amounts to unreasonable classification but also violates secularism, which is a basic structure of the Constitution.
The petitioners highlight that similarly situated persecuted groups such as Ahmadiyyas of Pakistan, Rohingyas of Myanmar, Tamils of Sri Lanka etc are not brought under the purview of the Act. This leads to unequal treatment of equals. The exclusion is purely linked to religion, and hence it is an impermissible classification under Article 14. The petitioners further state that associating citizenship with religious identity shakes the secular foundation of Indian Republic.
Some of the Assam-based petitioners argue that the Act violates Assam Accord of 1986. As per the 1985 Accord, all those who had entered Assam from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971 are treated as illegal migrants. The Accord was entered following years of agitations led by Assam groups demanding expulsion of illegal migrants from the State.
The petitioners argue that the CAA - which makes non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who had entered India before December 31, 2014 eligible for Indian citizenship - dilutes the Assam Accord.
"The result of the impugned Act will be that a large number of non-Indians, who have surreptitiously entered Assam after 25.03.1971, without possession of valid passport, travel documents or other lawful authority to do so, will be able to take citizenship and reside therein", stated All Assam Students Union in their petition.
Indian Union Muslim League and its four MPs, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, Peace Party of India, Jan Adhikar Party, a former Indian Ambassador along with two retired IAS officers, All Assam Students Union, Assam Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia, Citizens Against Hate, Rihai Manch, Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, Kerala MLA T N Prathapan, "Makkal Needhi Maiam" of Kamal Hassan, United Against Hate, Tripura leader Pradyut Deb Barman, Assam Gana Parishad, Kerala Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, DYFI, DMK , civil rights activists Harsh Mander, Irfan Habib, Nikhil Dey & Prabhat Patnaik, Assam Jamait Ulema -E-Hind, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha etc are some of the petitioners.