What is the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019?
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 is an act that was passed in the parliament on December 11, 2019. It amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 and thus allows Indian citizenship for people belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Christian community, who fled from neighbouring Muslim majority countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, where they were the religious minority.
These people should have come to India on or before the 31st of December 2014. Under CAA the people who have faced religious persecution or had the fear of facing religious persecution and thus fled their country will be granted fast track citizenship in six years. The requirement for naturalisation for these migrants has been changed from eleven years to five years.
Why are people protesting against it?
There has been a widespread protest against CAA in many parts of the country. The protestors argue that this new amendment violates the right to equality and discriminates against Muslims. Sects like Ahmedis and Shias also face religious persecution in countries like Pakistan but are not included under this act. The protest in Assam and other north-eastern states have been violent. The main reason behind their protest is that they fear that the illegal migrants from Bangladesh will hamper their political, cultural, and social rights and will further motivate migration from Bangladesh. Questions were raised because of the exclusion of other religious communities belonging to other countries like Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Myanmar.
Is the CAA Judicially Valid?
According to the opposition, CAA is infringing Muslim identity in the country as they are becoming a host for all the other communities except Muslims, to take refuge. The opposition believes that this will further justify the treatment of Muslims as “second-class” citizens of India. According to them, this violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which is Right to Equality.
Article 14 of the Indian constitution although forbids class legislation but not reasonable classification. As also laid in Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Tendolkar, Even though relating to an individual person, a law would be constitutional if on account of some reasons or special circumstances is applicable to him and not applicable to others. The individual person can be treated as a class. In the present case there is valid classification, one the countries whose people fled to India, are of Muslim majority or theocratic states, and second these communities have faced religious persecution in these countries.
Article 15 of the Indian constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them. The Supreme Court in the case of Gazula Dasaratha Rama Rao v. the State of AP held that the prohibition of this discrimination is available to Indian citizens only. Hence the argument, that this amendment violates Article 15, doesn’t hold merit because the amendment only deals with non-citizens.
The Central government in its affidavit in response to the alleged violation of the constitution because of the implementation of CAA, clearly mentioned that CAA doesn’t violate any fundamental rights mentioned in the constitution.
“Under Section 6B (1) the Central Government or a specified authority would grant citizenship only in a manner where certain conditions & restrictions would be satisfied by the applicant. Appropriate rules under Section 6B are being framed to clearly lay down these conditions, restrictions, and manner of grant of citizenship”, said the affidavit. (Web)
A panel of over 150 former judges, diplomats, civil servants, intellectuals and armed force officers led by Former Sikkim High Court Chief Justice Permod Kohli, stated that CAA and National Register of Citizen (NRC) are important and long-pending steps for ensuring the safety, security, and growth of the country. They further added that,
“The actions of the government seem to have created a sense of unease and insecurity in the minds of some people. These self-serving elements, in conjunction with a section of civil society, have embarked upon a malicious campaign of disinformation to mislead the innocent Indian public, especially the youth and a section of minorities, with a false and nefarious narrative.”
-(Ex-Babus, Judges Come out in Support of Centre on CAA)
The idea propagated by the opposition that the government is against the Muslim community is not true, one cannot forget that many historic steps to empower the Muslim community has been taken by the government, like that of the abolishment of triple talaq. This decision was also taken by the same government. Many Muslims from the three neighbouring countries mentioned under CAA have been given Indian citizenship since 2014. It is evident that in some of the cases of non-citizen Muslims, citizenship has been, and will be, accorded in accordance with the law, without any discrimination. Despite the fact that the government has ensured that Muslim citizens will not be affected by Citizenship Amendment Act, the people have been wrongly misguided into believing that the government has tried to spread hatred in one way or another.
“Ex-Babus, Judges Come out in Support of Centre on CAA.” The New Indian Express, 25
Jan. 2020, w ww.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/jan/25/ex-babus-judges-come-out-in-support-of-centre-on-caa-2094262.html.
Web, Sns. “’CAA Doesn’t Violate Fundamental Rights, India Constitutionally Secular’: Centre to
SC.” THE STATESMAN, 17 Mar. 2020, w ww.thestatesman.com/india/caa-doesnt-violate-fundamental-rights-india-constitutionally-secular-centre-sc-1502866848.html.
This blog is written by Amrit Rathi, Jindal Global Law School
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