The Centre Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 does not violate any fundamental right. The central government, in its 129-page affidavit in response to the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of CAA, termed the legislation legal and asserted that there was no question of it violating constitutional morality.
It also said CAA does not confer any arbitrary and unguided powers on the executive as the citizenship to the persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh would be granted in a manner as specified under the law governing grant of citizenship. The affidavit has been filed by B C Joshi, Director in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Supreme Court on December 18 last year had decided to examine the constitutional validity of the CAA but had refused to stay its operation. The newly 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 Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), one of the petitioners out of over 100 pleas which have challenged the CAA, has 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 on the basis of religion.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, had earlier issued notice to the Centre and sought its response on the batch of pleas, including those filed by the IUML and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, challenging the CAA.
The bench had also agreed to the submission of lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay that common people should be made aware about the aim, objects and the contents of the CAA and had asked Attorney General K K Venugopal, representing the Centre, to consider using audio-visual medium to make citizens aware of the legislation.
Venugopal had agreed to the suggestion and said the needful would be done by the government.
Parliament had 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. President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12 last year, turning it into an Act.
The plea by IUML, filed through advocate Pallavi Pratap, had sought an interim stay on the operation of CAB and the Foreigner Amendment (Order), 2015 and Passport (Entry Into Rules), Amendment Rules, 2015. The petition has 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 to either acquire or deny 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.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA including by RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi. Other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.