Indias Citizenship Act has been challenged at the Supreme Court barely a day after passing Parliament

Indias Citizenship Act has been challenged at the Supreme Court barely a day after passing Parliament

India's Citizenship Act has been challenged at the Supreme Court barely a day after passing Parliament

After the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2019 has been passed by both the houses, several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court in order to challenge the new law which had relaxed conditions for acquiring citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The North East Students' Organisation (NESO), Assam Association of the Deaf (AAD) as well as the Assam State Unit of the National People's Party (NPP) had filed three separate appeals before the Supreme Court, against the application of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

According to the Act Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, and Christians who have migrated to India without any travel documents from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before 31st December 2014 shall not be considered as illegal migrants.

The common aspect taken in all the three appeals is that the Act had derogated the rights of the citizens Assamese, as it had legalized the arrival of illegal migrants who entered Assam in cloak as well as dagger after 25th March 1971, without having a valid Passport, travel documents or any lawful authority to do so.

The NESO had submitted that the questioned Act, particularly Sections 2, 3, 5 and 6 had violated the right of the people of the North-East India in order to conserve and preserve their distinct culture, heritage, and traditions, by means of failing towards considering the adverse effect it has on the area which is already loaded with the continuous arrival of unlawful migrants. Also, the petition stated the Act had imposed an unreasonable burden on the states as no financial allocation was made for the illegal migrants likely to take Indian citizenship.

In accordance with the Act's interplay with international law, it was alleged that the government had failed towards protecting the rights of the indigenous individuals of the North East as sheltered as per the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Individuals.

It was submitted that before passing the legislation, the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations must be consulted considering the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946. As per the said Act, the authority to identify as well as to deport foreign nationals illegally staying in the nation were vested with the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations

According to the Petitioner, the questioned Act granted blanket exemptions from the provisions of law governing the grant of citizenship towards certain religious classes of immigrants, who had entered and/or staying in India without any valid documents. This is an infringement of the "non-religious" as well as "secular fabric" of the Constitution, which is confined in the Preamble and in Articles 15 and 25 to 27 of the Constitution

The appeal furthermore stated that the blanket exemption has not guided through any determinable conditions for the identification of individuals, who might have been persecuted. The appeal read that the questioned Act doesn’t have rational classification depending on intelligible differentia. The classification had been made on religion ipso facto which infringed Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, in which the legislation effectuates discrimination relying on the intrinsic as well as the core identity of the individual, that is, the religious identity of the individual”.

Furthermore, it alleged, that the Act doesn’t enjoin a set authority with the power towards determining whether and in what manner and to what extent, if at all, such individuals of the stated religion are qualified for special treatment. This is a clear cut infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The Petitioner also pointed out that the Amendment Act which has been amended Sections 2, 3, 5 and 6, is inconsistent through Section 6A of the principal Act as, while the latter has been inserted to make certain that illegal migrants entering the state of Assam after 25th March 1971 shall be deported back to Bangladesh, the previous provisions legitimized the entry as well as continued stay of illegal migrants", even if they entered India after 25th March 1971.

The Petitioners also stated by citing a gross violation of the right towards life guaranteed to the individuals of Assam, as well as all individuals, under Article 21 of the Constitution. It stated that the lives, as well as liberty of the Citizens of Assam, shall be affected badly through the massive entry of illegal immigrants as citizens of India.

The appeal asserted that as a consequence of this grant of citizenship the indigenous individuals of Assam shall be reduced towards a minority in their home State. Their cultural survival shall also be in jeopardy, their political control would be damaged and their occupation opportunities shall also be undermined.

The Petitioners also stated that the case concerning to entry of illegal immigrants in Assam and other areas of the north-east from 1951 to 1971 has already been pending before a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. In these situations, the government must not have presented the questioned Act, as it would only create confused and adds load on the courts. It was also pleaded that through promulgating the questioned Act, the government had failed to release its responsibility under Article 355 of the Constitution to take all actions for the protection of the State and it rather weakens the interest of citizens of Assam.

Reliance was sited on Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India, (2005) 5 SCC 665, in which the Supreme Court specially held that there could be no manner of uncertainty that the State of Assam is facing "external aggression as well as internal disturbance" due to large scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals.

The Petitioners also held that the Act violated Article 325 and 326 of the Constitution as it weakens the political rights of the people of Assam.

It was submitted that a huge number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had entered the State of Assam not due to any religious persecution but mainly due to economic reasons. Nonetheless, the impugned Act had not devised any criteria or mechanism to determine or to differentiate between Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian illegal immigrant who entered into India due to religious persecution or due to other reasons.

The Petitioners had also submitted that the questioned Act grants uncontrolled discretion for the "exclusion" of some classes of individuals from the existing lawful framework regulating the granting of citizenship of India, without suggesting guidelines or determinable conditions for identification of such individuals, who might have been persecuted.

The petition stated that the classification which has been made by the questioned Act has no rational connection with the object it is stated to achieve…there are numerous minority Muslim communities as well as other communities (which includes atheists) also in the nations in question which also faced discrimination and/ or persecution from the any other majority Muslim communities…even the range of just three nations with a specific state or majority religion, while exclusion of the other nations with other states/ majority religions, inter alia such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, etc. itself failed to withstand the test of a sensible classification.

It had last been submitted through the Petitioners that the questioned Act is an attempt in order to overreach the instructions of the Supreme Court in All Assam Sanmilitia Mahasangha v. Union of India, (2015) 3 SCC 1, in which the Central Government had directed to identify and deport every illegal migrant who had come to the State of Assam after 25th March 1971.


The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, had been presented to furnish Indian citizenship towards non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, which has been passed by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha recently.

After this several protests were ravaging India’s north-east as the cabinet’s decision towards introducing the bill in Lok Sabha. The violence however intensified after CAB had been moved to the Rajya Sabha for sanction. Protestors had burnt tires on the roads as well as threw bricks at the police, by force shutting down shops as well as markets.

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eStartIndia Team

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