A fresh plea against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) has been moved by Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), along with its office bearers, in Supreme Court. In addition to praying for the CAA to be struck down as unconstitutional, the petitioners also challenge Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 as arbitrary. APCR has also urged the top court to direct the Central government to refrain from preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) during the pendency of this plea.
With regard to the CAA, the petitioners claim that religion as a ground for being eligible for the status of citizenship is violative of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution and discriminatory against Muslims on the basis of their religion as well as place of birth. The petitioners submit that CAA classifies those who entered India into two categories (migrants from 3 specified countries, and those from other neighbouring countries) on the pretext of religious persecution but fails to account for those who could be victims of the same from the excluded countries. It has been argued that the classification has no nexus with the portrayed object of the Act, and has been made "whimsically and capriciously" without taking into consideration that minority sects of Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also victims of the same persecution. The Act has also been criticized for not providing any parameters to ascertain which person crossing the border was in fact a victim of religious persecution.
While these arguments form a major crux of the 60 petitions on which the Supreme Court has already issued notice to the Centre, the petitioners in this plea have argued that Section 3 (1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 is also unconstitutional. This provision sets out the parameters for people being granted citizenship of India on the basis of their date of birth (Citizenship by Birth) and divides them into 3 categories:
a) Children born in India between January 26, 1950 and July 1, 1987
b) Those born after July 1, 1987 and December 3, 2004; and
c) Those born after December 3, 2004
According to the petitioners, it is arbitrary to classify children into such categories and render some of them stateless on the basis of imposing different conditions on different categories. It is argued that while category (a) requires no conditions for attaining citizenship, conditions imposed on categories (b) and (c) amount to "different treatment to children as per their date of birth and renders certain category of children stateless on the basis of classification on date of birth, which is manifestly arbitrary." It has been submitted that, upon failing to meet the conditions, children falling under category (b) "would not be granted Indian citizenship but would not even be considered illegal migrants within Section 3(2)" of the Citizenship Act, and similarly, those failing to meet conditions under category (c) would also not be granted Indian citizenship. Referring to this, the right of child has been invoked by the petitioner to submit that the "treatment of the excluded children as stateless is also violative of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990 to which India is signatory".
The petitioners further their argument by submitting that the CAA, as well as Sec 3(1) of the Citizenship Act go against India's obligations to the international community under United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990 and United Nations Convention on the reduction of statelessness, 1961. It is then stated that Article 50 (c) of the Constitution imposes a duty on the State to respect its obligations under international laws and treaties, and that the Centre has failed to carry out its duty in complying with Article 37 read with Article 51(c) "which stipulates that the principles enshrined in part IV of the constitution are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the state to apply these principles in making laws."
"The cumulative effect of the impugned provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1955 is to arbitrarily deprive nationality to the children born in India after 1st July 1987", said the plea filed through Advoacte Ejaz Maqbool.
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