Supreme Court would hear on September 12 a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) which seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who came to settle in India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014. While refusing to stay the operation of the law, the top court had on December 18, 2019, issued notices to the Union government on the pleas.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat would make a hearing on 220 petitions in the Top Court on Monday, the lead plea being that by Indian Muslim League posted 220 petitions, including the lead plea of the Indian Union of Muslim League The amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
The top court had issued notice to the Union government and had sought its response by the second week of January 2020. However, due to COVID-19-induced restrictions, the matter could not come up for a full-fledged hearing as the matter involved a large number of lawyers and litigants. While issuing the notice on pleas, the bench had asked Attorney General KK Venugopal who represented the Union government, to consider using audio-visual mediums to make citizens aware of the legislation. “We are not going to grant a stay,” the Apex court said.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), one of the petitioners which have challenged the CAA, said in its plea that it violates the fundamental Right to Equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion based on religion. The Parliament cleared the Act which grants citizenship rights to religious minorities such as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, and Buddhists, who have come to India on or before December 31, 2014. The then President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, 2019, turning it into an Act.
The plea by IUML filed through advocate Pallavi Pratap seeks an interim stay on the operation of CAB and the Foreigner Amendment (Order), 2015, and Passport (Entry Into Rules), Amendment Rules, 2015. The petition alleged that the government’s CAB was against the basic structure of the Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as the Act extended benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians.
The plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said that the Act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats “equals as unequal”.
In his petition, Ramesh has said that substantial questions of law, including whether religion can be a factor in either acquiring or denying citizenship in India, arises for consideration of the court as it is a “patently unconstitutional” amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.
“The impugned Act creates two classifications, viz, classification on basis of religion and the classification on the basis of geography, and both the classifications are completely unreasonable and share no rational nexus to the object of the impugned Act i.e., to provide shelter, safety, and citizenship to communities who in their native country are facing persecution on grounds of religion,” the plea has said.