Civil rights activists Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Irfaan Habib and Prabhat Patnaik have filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
The petitioners argue that the Act, which liberalises and fast-tracks grant of citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, promotes religion-based discrimination, reports Live Law on Monday.
"Granting citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the grain of our Constitution. Religious pluralism and secularism have been the foundation of our country since Independence. While Article 11 empowers parliament to regulate citizenship, this does not mean that Parliament through an ordinary law, can destroy the fundamental values and basic structure of the Constitution", states the petition filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan.
As per the petition, a purely religious classification, devoid of any determining principle, violates the fundamental constitutional value of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution. The Act not only engages in unreasonable classification but also violates the basic structure of the Constitution.
"The Act also violates Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as it violates the right to live with dignity of individuals who are not covered under the special dispensation of the Amendment Act, solely on the basis of their membership to a particular religion", the petition adds.
The selection of the countries is based on arbitrary classification, the petition states:"The Act also places residents who have illegally migrated from other countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, China and Myanmar at a disadvantage by arbitrarily excluding them from the provisions of the Amendment Act.There is no reasonable justification for restricting the benefit under the amendment Act to three countries along to the exclusion of many other neighbouring country that have been war torn and witnessed ethnic cleansing and genocide against persons from various religious and linguistic communities".
The petitioners also challenge the notifications issued by the Central Government under the Passport (Entry into India) Rules and Foreigners Order, whereby exemptions were granted to the specified classes of immigrants who had entered India before December 31, 2014.
A slew of other petitions have also been filed, primarily contending that the exclusion of Muslim migrants from the purview of CAA amounted to violation of secularism, a basic feature of the Constitution, and Article 14.
Indian Union Muslim League and its four MPs, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, Peace Party of India, Jan Adhikar Party, a former Indian ambassador along with two retired IAS officers, two law students along with a lawyer and journalist, All Assam Students Union, Assam Leader of Opposition, Citizens Against Hate, Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, "Makkal Needhi Maiam" of Kamal Hassan, etc are some of the petitioners.