With Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests taking over the country and multiple Opposition parties challenging the act in the Supreme Court, the apex court on Monday said it will hear a batch of pleas, including those by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and royal scion of Tripura Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman, on December 18.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant said the pleas will be heard along with other pending matters coming up for hearing on Wednesday. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi mentioned for urgent listing of the two pleas and said they should also be heard along with a similar plea filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) that is coming up for hearing on Wednesday.
“I have filed two pleas one by Indian National Congress and the other by ex-Maharaja of Tripura challenging the validity of Citizenship Amendment Act. All I want is that they should come up for hearing along with a similar petition filed by IUML on December 18,” Singhvi said.
Several petitions, including those by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi has also filed a petition challenging the validity of the Act. He has sought direction declaring provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as “unconstitutional, null and void and ultra vires Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India and hence void ab initio.”
He said the present Amendment Act miserably fails on the touchstone of Article 14 and the parameters for non-arbitrariness provided therein.
“The Act is primarily focussed on establishing a religion-based classification which is, in and of itself, an impermissible classification and therefore violative of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution,” his plea said.
Another petition has been filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan for five human rights activists and academicians led Harsh Mander challenging the validity of the Citizenship Act.
The plea had sought direction for striking down from the provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 the words “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian Community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before 31st day of December, 2014, or alternatively striking down the entire proviso to Section 2(1)(b) introduced by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as unconstitutional, illegal and void”.
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 given Indian citizenship.
President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Thursday night, turning it into an Act.
Several other petitioners including All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, NGOs ”Rihai Manch” and Citizens Against Hate, advocate ML Sharma, law students have also approached the top 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 “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.”
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.
He has sought a declaration that the Act is “ultra vires” the Assam Accord of 1985, the Constitution and violates the international law and obligation approved and agreed by India under international covenants.
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 top court’s direction to suspend the operation of the Act and all actions under it pending disposal of her plea. Two NGOs, ”Rihai Manch” and Citizens Against Hate, in their plea filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, 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.
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.”
IUML has said in its plea that the bill was against the basic structure of Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as it extends benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.