Focus: GS-II Governance, International Relations, Prelims

Why in news?

  • In an unprecedented and rare move, the Geneva-based Office of the High  Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has announced that it plans to file an application in the Supreme Court, asking to be impleaded in petitions challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
  • And the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the United Nations body had no right to file a petition that will ask the court to appoint the Commissioner for Human Rights as an assistant or ‘amicus curiae’ in the case.

Details

U.N. rights body to move Supreme Court on Citizenship Amendment Act
  • The High Commissioner [Michelle Bachelet] intends to submit an ‘amicus curiae’ brief shortly on the Citizenship [Amendment] Act [CAA] in the Indian Supreme Court, in accordance with the Court’s established procedures.
  • The amicus curiae will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA
  • The OHCHR plan has been criticised by diplomatic and legal experts as an “overreach” by it.

Implications for India

  • The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
  • NO foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.
  • The CAA has to be tested on the touchstone of the Indian Constitution and not U.N. Convention.
  • If such interventions as ‘amicus curiae’ are allowed, it might set a wrong precedent
  • The U.N. rights body’s move as “absolutely unprecedented in the diplomatic history of India”.

Background

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The Citizenship Act,1955 provides various ways in which citizenship may be acquired. It provides for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of the territory into India.
  • The CAA Bill was enacted on December 12, 2019 after it was cleared by Parliament.
  • It promises to fast-track citizenship for undocumented migrants belonging to six faiths not including Islam and Judaism, who fled from religious persecution in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan before December 21, 2014.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is commonly known as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) or the UN Human Rights Office.
  • OHCHR is a department of the Secretariat of the United Nations that works to promote and protect the human rights that are guaranteed under international law and stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
  • The office was established by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1993 in the wake of the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.
  • The office is headed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who co-ordinates human rights activities throughout the UN System and acts as the secretariat of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The objectives of OHCHR are to:

  1. Promote universal enjoyment of all human rights by giving practical effect to the will and resolve of the world community as expressed by the United Nations
  2. Play the leading role on human rights issues and emphasize the importance of human rights at the international and national levels
  3. Promote international cooperation for human rights
  4. Stimulate and coordinate action for human rights throughout the United Nations system
  5. Promote universal ratification and implementation of international standards
  6. Assist in the development of new norms
  7. Support human rights organs and treaty monitoring bodies
  8. Respond to serious violations of human rights
  9. Undertake preventive human rights action
  10. Promote the establishment of national human rights infrastructures
  11. Undertake human rights field activities and operations
  12. Provide education, information advisory services and technical assistance in the field of human rights
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