CAA Focused Law, Doesn't Encourage Illegal Migration Or Influx Of Foreigners: Centre Before SC
The Centre on Sunday urged the Supreme Court to dismiss pleas challenging the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), stressing that the law does not encourage "illegal migration" in Assam or any future influx of foreigners in the country.
It also vehemently defended the exclusion of certain areas of Assam and other Northeastern states from the application of the CAA, saying it has been done to "protect the ethnic/linguistic rights" of the natives and this was "not discriminatory".
It is a "focused law" that grants citizenship only to members of six specified communities who came on or before December 31, 2014 and does not affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any Indian, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a detailed 150-page affidavit.
Also, the existing regime for obtaining citizenship by foreigners of any country continues to be untouched by the present law and they remain the same, it said ahead of the hearing of petitions on the contentious CAA that had sparked protests in various parts of the country in late 2019 and early 2020 over alleged discriminatory provisions.
A Bench comprising Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi is scheduled to hear as many as 232 petitions, mostly PILs, on the issue of CAA today.
The affidavit said that the law is "narrowly tailored" and only those migrants "belonging to the six specified communities from the three countries who had entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 will be covered by the provisions of this Amendment Act." "These migrants are already living in India. The Amendment Act does not have any provision which provides for the grant of citizenship to such migrants who would have come after December 31, till date or on any future date. It is respectfully submitted that the CAA, 2019 does not in any way encourage illegal migration into Assam," it said.
The MHA said Parliament is competent to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India as provided in Article 245 (1) of The Constitution and the issues of policy domain cannot be challenged in a court of law.
"It is further submitted that this is a focused law that has a specific cut-off date of December 31, 2014. Therefore, only such migrants belonging to the six specified communities from the three countries who had entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 will be covered by the provisions of this Amendment Act," it said.
Seeking dismissal of the pleas, the affidavit, filed by Sumant Singh, a joint secretary in the MHA, said, "There is no provision in CAA which would affect the distinct language, script or culture of citizens of Assam and other North-Eastern States." The Centre said the Assamese people have full right to conserve their language, script or culture in accordance with the Constitution and the CAA only makes eligible a class of foreigners who had taken shelter in India on or before December 31, 2014 due to persecution faced by them in three specified countries over their religion.
It is submitted that CAA does not encourage any future influx of foreigners into India as it applies to past events and has no application in future. "Therefore, CAA is not violative of ..the Constitution," it said.
The Centre said the CAA facilitates the grant of citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014." It said the law applied to those who have been exempted by the central government under the provisions of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and other relevant provisions and the rules made under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
It also said that these migrants are already living in India and the amended law does not have any provision which provides for the grant of citizenship to such migrants who would have come after the specified date or on any future date.
"It is respectfully submitted that the CAA does not in any way encourage illegal migration into Assam and therefore the petition that it has the potential to encourage illegal migration into Assam is unfounded," it said.
It said the petitions are liable to be dismissed and reserved its right to file a more detailed affidavit at a later stage.
The MHA said the classification of tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under "The Inner Line" notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 has been made "on tangible material, historical reasons and the already prevalent classifications." "It is submitted that said classification of excluded areas is based on factors surrounding the fundamental differences in the population density, the constitutional obligation of protection of native culture, the economic and social inability/impact in case of mass migration and reasons concerning national security...," it said.
Referring to the Assam Accord, the affidavit said that specific concerns with regard to Assam and the other Northeastern states have been taken into consideration while enacting the CAA in 2019.
It said the CAA is not limited to Assam and will be applicable throughout the country except tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and areas covered under "Inner Line" as notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The top court had issued notice to the Centre and had sought its response by the second week of January 2020.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and others, including Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, have filed pleas on the issue.
With PTI inputs