Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court agreed to hear on January 10th 2020, a plea made by the government to transfer pending writ petitions challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) of 2019 in various High Courts across the country to the apex court.
  • Concern raised was: a probability that various High Courts might deliver mutually conflicting views on the legality of the CAA, leading to confusion.

What are the petitions about?

  • The petitions in the Supreme Court argue that the law welcomes “illegal migrants” into India selectively on the basis of their religion and pointedly exclude Muslims. It has an “unholy nexus” with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise and is against the principles of secularism, right to equality and dignity of life enshrined in the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • While the NRC exercise will result in identification of persons as “illegal migrants”, the CAA seeks to simultaneously offer citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians on the presumed ground of persecution, they contend.
  • The new citizenship law fast tracks citizenship by naturalisation for minority Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who enter India illegally, claiming religious persecution in their native countries.
  • But the new law does not impose any requirement on illegal migrants from the six religions to prove their claim of religious persecution or even a reasonable fear of it.
  • The petitions argue that the legislation effectuates discrimination on the basis of the intrinsic and core identity of an individual, that is, his religious identity as a Muslim.
  • The Act ensures that only an illegal immigrant who is Muslim would be singled out and prosecuted under the Passports (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or the Foreigners Order 1949 and deprived of his personal liberty.
  • On the other hand, illegal migrants from the six protected religions would be entitled with Indian citizenship and the benefits that come with it. While Muslim migrants would have to show their proof of residency in India for at least 11 years, the law allows illegal migrants from the six communities to be naturalised in five years’ time.
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