CAA doesn’t affect citizenship regime, Centre tells top court

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is a “narrowly tailored” piece of legislation that does not affect the existing regime for obtaining Indian citizenship, and legal migration, on the basis of valid documents and visa, continues to be permissible from all countries, the Union government told the Supreme Court on Sunday.

These submissions were part of an affidavit filed by the government in response to petitions by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and others challenging the validity of the CAA.

Urging the top court to dismiss the pleas, the government said in its affidavit that the Act “does not in any way encourage illegal migration into Assam” and termed it an “unfounded…apprehension”.

“It is submitted that the existing regime for obtaining citizenship of India by foreigners of any country is untouched by the CAA and remains the same. It is submitted that the legal migration, on the basis of valid documents and visa, continues to be permissible from all countries of the world including from the three specified countries”, the government said.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up the petitions Monday.

Explaining its stand, the government said that Article 6 of the Constitution deems all migrants in India from Pakistan (including present-day Bangladesh) as citizens of India if such persons or their parents or grandparents were born in undivided India or such persons had migrated into India before 19th July, 1948. If such persons had migrated after this date and got registered before a competent officer and had been resident in India for at least six months before the date of registration, then such persons were also deemed to be Indian citizens.

“It is thus obvious that Article 6 deemed a special class of migrants post-partition [which clearly took place on religious lines and resulted in large scale migration on religious lines] as citizens of India due to their very special circumstances”.

The Centre submitted that CAA “is a benign piece of legislation which seeks to provide a relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date… the CAA is a specific amendment which seeks to tackle a specific problem prevalent in the specified countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh) i.e. persecution on the ground of religion in light of the undisputable theocratic constitutional position in the specified countries, the systematic functioning of such States and the perception of fear that may be prevalent amongst minorities as per the de facto situation in the said countries.”

The government said that the CAA does not seek to recognise or provide answers to any kind of persecution that may be taking place across the world. “In that regard, the CAA is a narrowly tailored legislation seeking to address the specific problem which awaited India’s attention for a solution since several decades,” it said.

The government also said that the constitutionality of CAA should be tested within that legislative domain and cannot be conflated to extend beyond that object.

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