Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Central government on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 but refused to stay the operation of the contentious act.
The next date of hearing is 22 January. A total of 59 petitions were filed in the top court challenging the Act, which has led to widespread massive protests, some very violent, across the country.
According to the petitions the new citizenship act discriminates on the basis of religion as it makes four classifications -- between Muslim migrant and non Muslim migrant from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan; between migrants from these three countries and those from other countries; between residents who migrated due to reasons of religious persecution and those who migrated due to other forms of persecution; and illegal migrants of six specified faiths from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India before 31 December 2014, and those who entered India after 31 December.
It has been alleged that the classification based on religion violates Article 14 and Article 25, and sought the amendment to be struck down.
"The result of the impugned Act will be that a large number of non-Indians, who have surreptitiously entered Assam after 25.03.1971, without possession of valid passport, travel documents or other lawful authority to do so, will be able to take citizenship and reside therein", stated All Assam Students Union in their plea.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), one of the petitioners which has challenged the Act, 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.
"The Citizenship Amendment follows the exercise of National Register of Citizens in the State of Assam, which back fired and the same is evident from the fact that the Government is yet to publish the religion wise breakdown of those19- lakh excluded but the Citizenship Amendment (Section6B) seeks to abate proceedings against the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists and Christians in that list(singling out only a particular religion as migrants)." The petition filed by DMK states.
"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 filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh states.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, including by RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, NGOs 'Rihai Manch' and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma and many law students.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 received President Ram Nath Kovind's nod on 12 December. The bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament with a clear majority last week.