RJD leader Manoj Jha in his plea said that the Act was violative of secularism as it excludes people in providing citizenship with a "malafide intention to discriminate" against religious groups not covered by the amendment.
RJD leader Manoj Jha on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying that providing citizenship on the ground of religion was against the basic structure doctrine of the Constitution. Jha in his plea said that the Act was violative of secularism as it excludes people in providing citizenship with a “malafide intention to discriminate” against religious groups not covered by the amendment.
“Indian citizenship is secular in character, to discriminate between persons while providing citizenship on the grounds of religion violates article 14 and 25 of the Constitution, it further is in blatant disregard of the basic structure doctrine and the concept of constitutional morality,” Jha’s plea filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil said.
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Separately, Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind also filed a writ petition challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, stating that the act violates the basic values of the Constitution and also violates the fundamental rights of citizens.
Jamiat’s petition further said that the entire act is prepared on the basis of religious discrimination and prejudice and therefore, the Citizenship Amendment Act must be invalidated.
The petition filed through advocate Irshad Haneef said that the Act was in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, which explicitly states that no citizen in the country will be discriminated against on the basis of religion, and every citizen will be treated equally.
On the other hand, Jha, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP of Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), in his petition said that the government’s argument of accommodating minorities facing religious persecution was illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional as there were many other minority communities from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar which were not included in the amended law.
The plea said, “The Amendment is under inclusive and fails to note that even in the neighbouring country of Sri Lanka, Buddhism is the state religion and Tamils have migrated to India in large numbers due to religio-ethnic persecution, and Muslims have increasingly been targeted for their religious identity in recent years.
“Though Myanmar does not have any official religion, Buddhism is given preference, and Rohingya Muslims, Chin, Karen and Naga Christians have been facing religious ethnic persecution and have migrated to India. Similarly, in Bhutan, where Buddhism is given preference, and non-Buddhist organisations and practices are severely restrained, Lhotsampas (of Hindu Nepali descent) have been persecuted and disenfranchised, resulting in their mass statelessness”.
It further stated that the amendment neither defines religious persecution nor does it provide any test to determine if the persons of the specified six religions migrated due religious persecution and it gives them a chance to become citizens even if the migration happened due to economic reasons.
The plea said that the Citizenship Act does not specifically state that there is a presumption that an illegal migrant has in fact faced religious persecution once it is proved that the illegal migrant is from these six religions and have migrated from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
“In effect, the amendment would give the right to an illegal migrant belonging to six specified faiths to become an Indian citizen who may have migrated to India predominantly for economic reasons,” the petition said.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, including by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
According to the amended Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but will be given Indian citizenship.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 13, turning it into an Act. Several other petitioners including Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.