CAA’s Legal Issues & Status of Judicial Proceedings


10:04 AM

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in the News?
  • Background
  • Violation of Article 14 of the Constitution
  • Central Government’s Response
  • Judicial Status of the CAA
  • Relation with Section 6A of the Citizenship Act

Why in News?

Four years after the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) notified the rules to implement the law on March 11.


  • The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 fast-tracks citizenship to undocumented immigrants from six non-Muslim communities from the neighboring Muslim countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
    • The six non-Muslim communities are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Christian and Jain.
  • As per the rules of the Act, the applicants must provide certain documents and specify date of entry in India to be eligible for citizenship. The cutoff date for entry is December 31, 2014.
  • Although the Act was passed on December 11, 2019, and received assent from the President on December 12 of the same year, it could not be implemented since the rules were not framed.
  • The Act is under challenge before the Supreme Court, with several petitioners moving fresh pleas seeking a stay on the implementation of the rules.

Violation of Article 14 of the Constitution

  • Immediately after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging its constitutionality.
  • These petitions primarily challenge the law for violating Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees all ‘persons’ (not only citizens) equality before the law and equal protection of law.
  • They also argue that making religion a qualifier for citizenship violates secularism, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.
  • The petitioners have contended that the special treatment given to the specific persecuted religious minorities from the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries does not constitute a reasonable classification under Article 14.
  • More so because groups like the Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka, the Rohingyas in Myanmar and minority Muslim sects like the Hazaras in Afghanistan also face persecution but have been denied similar protection under this law.
  • The CAA has also been dubbed as a move to subvert the Assam Accord of 1985 that deems any person who cannot prove his ancestry beyond March 24, 1971, an alien and does not differentiate on grounds of religion.
  • The petitions, especially one by the All-Assam Students’ Union, contend that the law will further multiply the uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam.

Central Government’s Response

  • The Centre in its affidavit before the Supreme Court said that it seeks to provide amnesty to specific communities from specified countries with a clear cut-off date.
  • It highlighted that the law does not in any manner affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any Indian citizen.
  • The affidavit further stated that the narrowly tailored legislation was passed to tackle a specific problem, i.e., the persecution on the ground of religion in the light of the undisputable theocratic constitutional position in these specified countries.
  • It added that in matters of foreign policy, citizenship, and economic policy among others, a wide latitude is available to the Parliament.

Judicial Status of the CAA

  • On December 18, 2019, a Bench comprising former Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde, Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant refused to stay the operation of the law.
    • They instead suggested that the government publicise the actual intent of the Act so that there was no confusion among the public about its objectives and aims.
  • On October 6, 2022, a Bench comprising former CJI U.U. Lalit and Justices Ravindra Bhat and Hima Kohli passed an order stating that final hearings in the case would begin on December 6, 2022.
  • However, the case has not been listed since then.
  • As per the Supreme Court’s website, the petitions are currently listed before a Bench headed by Justice Pankaj Mithal.

Relation with Section 6A of the Citizenship Act

  • The proceedings against the CAA are also dependent on the outcome of the challenge to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
    • The section was introduced in furtherance of a Memorandum of Settlement called the “Assam Accord” signed on August 15, 1985, between the Centre and the leaders of the Assam movement.
    • Section 6A determines who is a foreigner in Assam by establishing March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for entry. Those entering the state after that would be considered “illegal immigrants”.
    • Those who came to the State on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971, were to be declared as “foreigners” and would have all the rights and obligations of Indian citizens except for being included in electoral rolls for 10 years.
  • If March 24, 1971, is upheld as a valid cut-off date for entry into the State, then CAA can be held to be violative of the Assam Accord since it establishes a different timeline.

Q1) What is the difference between a Refugee and a Migrant?

A migrant is someone who chooses to move, not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives through work opportunities, education, family reunification or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such impediment to return.

Q2) What is the primary role of the UNHRC?

The Human Rights Council is the main intergovernmental body within the United Nations responsible for human rights. Established in 2006 by the General Assembly, it is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.

Source: Citizenship Amendment Act: Legal issues and status of judicial proceedings | Explained