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Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad and four others have moved a plea in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019.
Apart from the CAA, Azad along with Swami Agnivesh, Wajahat Habibullah and Bahadur Abbas Naqvi have also assailed the Passport Rules, orders concerning Foreigners as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 and Citizenship Rules, 2009.
Challenging the same as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, the petitioners have contended,
The petitioners add that,
"The intent to stealthily ensure that Muslims and backward sections of citizens are excluded from the mainstream Indian population and placed in Detention Centers is clear and is being openly boasted about."
The petitioners contend that the path to the “fraudulent” enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was paved through various amendments beginning from 2015. In this regard, the petition states,
“… an attempt has been stealthily made since 2015, to dilute various provisions of the law in violation the Statute(s) and the Constitution, to make way for the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.”
In particular, the petitioners highlight that the Foreigner’s Amendment Order and Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920 and Rules were diluted by the Foreigners Amendment Orders, 2015 and 2016 and Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and 2016. As stated by the petition, by virtue of these amendments,
“… only migrant Muslims will now remain ‘foreigners’ by virtue of an executive Order (Foreigners Amendment Order 2015) making them illegal migrants under the Citizenship Act, 1955.”
Thereafter, the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has been enacted fraudulently, the petitioners argue. In turn, the petitioners have also stated that,
“… the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 deliberately conceals the specific amendments, made by the Passport (Entry into India) Rules 2015 & 2016 and Foreigners (Amendment) Orders, 2015 & 2016.”
Further, the petitioners submit that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, is a step towards the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), all of which is intended to exclude Muslims and backward sections from citizenship. On this aspect, the petition states,
“The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 which has been brought into force vide Notification dated 10.01.2020, is only a step leading to the promulgation of the National Register of Citizens with the clear intent of placing all the backward sections of citizens including Muslims into detention centers and removing them from the mainstream, thereby destroying the existing fabric of the Nation.”
The petitioners argue that the challenged provisions are against the legislative policy on citizenship and violative of the Constitution of India. It has been specifically contended that these provisions would also “destroy the secular fabric of India.”
Among the various provisions objected to in making the challenge, the petitioners have raised apprehension that the definition of “persecuted minorities” has been left deliberately vague in the CAA. Among other objections, the petitioners argue that,
“… a conscious decision has been taken to keep out certain persecuted minorities like the Ahmaddiyas & Bohras Ismailis, Hazaras, Atheists from Pakistan, Rohingyas from Myanmar, Tamils from Sri Lanka, Buddhists from Nepal and Jews, Yemenis.”
Bearing these concerns in mind, the petitioners have also registered objection to the haste with which the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed before its enactment on January 10, this year.
“Considering the gravity of the impact of the Bill, it ought to have been referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee like its predecessor Bill i.e. Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. However, on the contrary, it was passed in great haste by being introduced in the Lok Sabha on 09.12.2019 and being passed on the same day and thereafter introduced and passed in Rajya Sabha on 11.12.2019.”
In the backdrop, the petitioners have also contended that an attempt is being made to make India a Hindu Rashtra. According the petitioners, this can be gauged from the Lok Sabha debate that preceded the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The petition states,
“… a bare reading of the Lok Sabha Debate held on 09.12.2019 shows that the intention behind the Citizenship Amendment Bill is to reverse the effects of Partition and emerge as protector of Hindus and become a Hindu Rashtra."
The petitioners add that there are reports that some states such as Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have already begun granting citizenship in line with the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, although the procedure under the Amendment is yet to be introduced.
Other grounds presented include a contention that the implementation of the challenged provisions would entail heavy financial pressure on the public exchequer and would cause additional pressure on the limited resources of India.
Further, it is argued that as per a Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee for the Citizenship Bill 2016 (the predecessor to the 2019 Amendment), the Research and Analysis Wing of the Government of India has expressed concerns that the Bill could be misused by foreign agents to infiltrate India, thereby causing a national threat to the security of the nation.
In view of these contentions, the petitioners have urged that the Supreme Court declare unconstitutional and strike down the following:
Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 dated 07.09.2015,
Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2016 dated 18.07.2016,
Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 dated 07.09.2015,
Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2016 dated 18.07.2016
Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 dated 12.12.2019,
The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003
Citizenship Rules, 2009
Notification dated January 10, 2020 signifying that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, has come into force.