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Supreme Court Adjourns Hearing Of Petitions Challenging Citizenship Amendment Act To December 6

Padmakshi Sharma
31 Oct 2022 6:39 AM GMT
Supreme Court Adjourns Hearing Of Petitions Challenging Citizenship Amendment Act To December 6

The Supreme Court adjourned the petitions challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 to December 6 2022. The matter was heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi.

The bench decided to treat the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League as the lead matter.

The Court also appointed two lawyers as nodal counsels who will ensure that the compilations are ready by the next date.

"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if 2-3 matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance.such process will make the conduct of the proceedings easy. We have been appraised that the Writ Petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap. We therefore appoint her and Mr. Kanu Agarawal as nodal counsels."

The nodal counsels were advised to consider designating some other matters as lead matters keeping in view the grounds of geographical and religious classifications among other things. The petitions raising issues relating to Assam and North-East could be separately classified.

The bench also granted time to the States of Assam and Tripura to file their responses to the latest affidavit filed by the Union Government in relation to the issues of North-Eastern region.

Over 200 petitions challenging the CAA were listed before the Court. Nearly 50 petitions raise issues specific to Assam and other North-Eastern states.

Issues Raised in the Lead Petition

The 2019 Act amends the Citizenship Act 1955 to liberalize the norms for granting citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) states that while they do not oppose the grant of citizenship to migrants, they are aggrieved by the discrimination and illegal classification based on religion. The exclusion of Muslims from the Act amounted to religion based discrimination. As per the petition, the religious segregation made by the Act is without any reasonable differentiation and results in violation of Article 14 and also the very idea of India as a country which treats people of all faiths equally. The Indian Constitution only recognises citizenship by birth, descent or acquisition by bonafide residence. The Act makes religion a criteria for citizenship. The linking of religion to citizenship is opposed to secularism, which is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

"CA, Act 2019 explicitly discriminates against the Muslims. The Act extends the benefit to individuals belonging Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, but excludes the same benefit to the individuals belonging to the Islam religion. Since, CA, Act 2019 discriminates on the basis of core and intrinsic trait of the individual i.e religion of the individual, it cannot form a reasonable classification based on intelligible differentia", the petition argued.

The petition also contends that the yardsticks adopted for selecting the countries and categories of persons are not uniformly applied. Petition points out the exclusion of Myanmar and the inclusion of Afghanistan (which was not a part of British India, and has no history of partition) in this regard. The exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, and Rohingya Muslims are also highlighted in the plea.

The petition has voiced the apprehension that the Act will result in harm to Muslims in the exercise of National Register of Citizens which is proposed to be carried out nationwide.

"With the passage of the Amendment Act, and the nationwide implementation of NRC, it shall ensure that those illegal migrants who are Muslims shall be prosecuted and, those illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians such shall be given the benefit of naturalization as an Indian Citizen", stated the plea.

Centre's Response

The Centre, through an affidavit, submitted that the CAA did not impinge upon any existing right that may have existed prior to the enactment of the amendment and further, in no manner whatsoever, sought to affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any of the Indian citizens.

It further submitted that the existing regime for obtaining citizenship of India by foreigners of any country was untouched by the CAA and remained the same and that the legal migration, on the basis of valid documents and visa, continued to be permissible from all countries of the world including from the three specified countries. The Centre also stated that CAA was merely a limited legislative measure, circumscribed in its application which did not affect the existing legal rights or regime concerning citizenship [falling outside the purview of specialized measure] in any manner. It added that the question of entitlement and conferment of citizenship and issues related thereto were within the plenary domain of the competent Legislature.

"By the very nature of the question regarding citizenship of the country and issues pertaining thereto, the said subject matter may not be within the scope of judicial review and may not be justiciable" said Centre.

CASE TITLE: Indian Union of Muslim League And Ors. v. UoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 1470/2019

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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