Pleas filed in SC against amended CA

NEW DELHI, Dec 14: Several petitions, including by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, were filed in the Supreme Court on Friday, challenging the constitutional validity of the amended Citizenship Act (CA), 2019.
According to the amended act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till 31 December, 2014, and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the citizenship amendment bill on Thursday night, turning it into an act.
Several other petitioners, including the All Assam Students’ Union, the Peace Party, NGOs Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate, advocate ML Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court, challenging the act.
While Ramesh has said that the act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the constitution and treats “equals as unequal,” Moitra has said that the “patent unconstitutionality” of the law “destroys the plural, multi-religious and egalitarian basis of India’s secular fabric, and replaces it with a constitutionally unsustainable religion centric substance.”
In his petition, Ramesh 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 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, ie, to provide shelter, safety and citizenship to communities who in their native country are facing persecution on grounds of religion,” the plea said.
Moitra has said in her plea that the act is a “divisive, exclusionary and discriminatory piece of legislation that is bound to rend the secular fabric irreparably, and allow illegal migrants of particular religions to acquire citizenship immediately upon its passage.”
She has also sought the top court’s direction to suspend the operation of the act and all actions under it pending disposal of her plea.
In their plea, NGOs Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate have said that the act is “discriminatory and manifestly arbitrary” and violates the fundamental rights, including that of equality before law, and basic structure of the constitution.
“The amendment is manifestly arbitrary inasmuch it is capricious, irrational, not transparent, biased with favouritism or nepotism, without adequate determining principle, and contrary to the public interest,” the plea, filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, said.
In his petition, Ramesh has sought a declaration that the act is “ultra vires” the Assam Accord of 1985 and the constitution, and violates the international law and obligation approved and agreed by India under international covenants.
The plea by Ramesh, which is settled by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Devadatt Kamat, has sought quashing of the amended CA, 2019, as “unconstitutional, null and void and ultra vires” Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the constitution.
“The impugned act suffers from manifest arbitrariness, as it arbitrarily groups only three countries along with only six religions and expressly excludes specific religions and regions from availing the benefits of the citizenship amendments,” it said.
Similarly, one of the pleas said the act “purportedly seeks to provide benefits to victims of persecution. However, the impugned act goes on to create a division between the persecuted, on the basis of faith and nationality of origin.”
On Thursday, another plea challenging the citizenship amendment bill was filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which said that it violates the fundamental right to equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making exclusion on the basis of religion.
The IUML has said in its plea that the bill was against the basic structure of the constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as it extends benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. (PTI)