Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA)

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA)

The Supreme Court on May 20, 2020, Wednesday issued a notice on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA). A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy issued notice to the batch of petitions and tagged them along with other 160 petitions before the apex court. 

The counsel appearing for the All Assam Law Students Union and the Muslim Student Federation prayed for an interim order to counter the conflict between the CAA and the 1956 provisions of the Assam Accord.

However, the bench refused to grant interim protection and instead issued notice. This is the first time the CAA's petitions have listed aspects challenging the constitutionality of the Act. The immediate arguments were already filed in February 2020, but were now listed before the Supreme Court due to the lockdown situation and the court's restricted functioning.

The fresh petitions have been filed by Tamil Nadu Thuheed Jamath, Shalim Muslim Students Federation Assam, a 'Sachin Yadav' and All Assam Students Union.

On 18 December, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Center on 60 petitions. Since the Act was not notified by that time, the petitioners did not press for a stay. The act was later implemented by notification on 10 January.

The Indian Union Muslim League, one of the petitioners, had filed an application to stay the notification and sought to clarify the situation when a nationwide NRC was done.

On 17 March, the central government filed a counter affidavit stating that the classification under the CAA is fair and constitutional.

The petitions stated that the granting of citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan promotes liberalization and religion-based discrimination.

According to the petitions, purely religious classification, devoid of any set principles, violates the fundamental constitutional value of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution.

The exclusion of Muslims from the Act entails unfair classification and also violates secularism, which is a basic structure of the Constitution.

The petitioners have highlighted that similarly persecuted groups like Ahmadiyya of Pakistan, Rohingya of Myanmar, Tamils of Sri Lanka etc. have not been brought under the purview of the Act. Exclusion is purely connected to religion, and is therefore an impermeable classification under Article 14.

The petitioners further stated that linking citizenship with religious identity shakes the secular foundations of the Republic of India. Some Assam petitioners argue that the Act violates the 1986 Assam Accord. According to the 1985 Assam Accord, all those who entered Bangladesh from Assam after 24 March 1971 are considered illegal migrants.

The agreement was entered into by several years of agitation led by Assam groups seeking to expel illegal migrants from the state.

The petitioners contend that "CAA - which non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, who entered India before 31 December 2014, are eligible for Indian citizenship, this dilutes the Assam Accord."

In his petition, All Assam Students Union said that "The result of this Act will be that after 25.03.1971 a large number of non-Indians, who have entered Assam, without taking valid passports, travel documents or possession of other legitimate authority to do so, take citizenship Will be able.

There are also some petitions that challenge the NPR notification and the proposed nationwide NRC including 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. Two retired IAS officers, All Assam Students Union, Assam Leader of Opposition Devabrata Saikia, Rhea Manch, Lok Sabha MP Duddin Owaisi, Kerala MLA TN Pratapan, Kamal Haasan's "Makkal Needi Mam", United Against Hate, Tripura leader Vidyut Deb Burman, Assam Gana Parishad, Kerala Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, DYFI, DMK, civil rights activist Harsh Mandar, Some petitioners are Irfan Habib, Nikhil Dey and Prabhat Patnaik, Assam Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha, Students Federation of India, etc.

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