In Supreme Court today, 144 petitions on Citizenship Amendment Act
Three judges of the Supreme Court will on Wednesday take up 144-odd petitions that have been filed over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment Act) that has led to protests in several parts of the country including national capital Delhi. While most of the petitions challenge the constitutional validity of CAA, some of them seek a declaration that the act is constitutional.
The petitions first came up for a hearing before the top court on December 18, 2019 when the court issued notice to the central government and its top law officer, Attorney General KK Venugopal. Only 60-odd petitions had been filed by then.
The Centre had subsequently filed a transfer petition seeking transfer of CAA-related cases from high courts to the Supreme Court.
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The change in the citizenship law, which was passed by Parliament on December 12, 2019, amends Section 2 of the Citizenship Act, which defines “illegal migrants”. In this definition, Parliament added a provision that excluded people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, from being counted as undocumented migrants. The only condition was that such people should have entered the country before 31 December 2014.
The exclusion of Muslim community from this special dispensation has led to widespread protests across the country. Critics say this is the first time that a law has linked Indian citizenship to the applicant’s religion. There have also been protests against a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the potential problems in the two working in combination.
The petitioners challenging the law have submitted that the CAA discriminates on the basis of religion by segregating persons and granting them the benefit of naturalization, if they belong to a certain religion from three neighbouring countries.
This religious segregation, the petitioners submitted, is without any reasonable differentiation and it is not only violates Article 14, but is also blatantly opposed to the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
Supporters of CAA have argued that the exclusion of Muslims from the three countries is reasonable since Muslims are in a majority in the three countries and are hence not in danger of being persecuted for their faith.