CAA doesn’t affect existing rights of citizens, CAA benign legislation: Centre in its affidavit told SC

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Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial hearing in the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) case in the Supreme Court, the Central government, in its fresh affidavit on Sunday told the Supreme Court that the CAA introduced in 2019 does not affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any of the Indian citizens and it is a benign legislation.

“The existing regime for obtaining citizenship of India by foreigners of any country continues to be untouched by the CAA and remains the same. 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 countries specified in the CAA,” the government said, in its latest 150-page affidavit, filed before the Supreme Court.

The matter would be heard tomorrow by a bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit.

“The CAA is merely a limited legislative measure, circumscribed in its application which does not affect the existing legal rights or regime concerning citizenship [falling outside the purview of specialized measure] in any manner. The CAA is a benign legislation,” the affidavit said.

CAA Persecuted communities form a reasonable classification and so a law can be framed for their benefit, the government defended the CAA and said the CAA is not in contravention of Assam accord 1985 or Immigrants Act,1950. It is wrong to say it will encourage illegal migration into Assam or North-Eastern states, the Centre told the Supreme Court.

While questioning the locus of the petitioners who had challenged the CAA, the Centre said that matters concerning immigration policy, citizenship and exclusion of immigrants lies within the domain of the parliament and cannot be questioned by way of public interest litigation petitions.

“It is the executive policy of the sovereign manifested by competent legislation, which would govern the decision making. Legislative policies in this regard are designedly entrusted exclusively to elected representatives,” the Centre said.

The Centre also made it clear that the power of exclusion of immigrants is, therefore, an incident of sovereignty belonging to a duly constituted Nation-State and immigration policy, which has an impact on the foreign policy of a State and by extension, affects the security apparatus of the State and would fall squarely within the domain of the Parliament.

The Centre filed this affidavit before the Supreme Court in response to around more than 200 petitions filed before the top court challenging the CAA law.

The CAA, which was passed on December 12, 2019, amends Section 2 of the Citizenship Act of 1955 which defines “illegal migrants”.

The CAA specifically excluded the Muslim community from the proviso, triggering protests across the country and a slew of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court.

The petitioners challenged the law have submitted that the CAA discriminates against Muslims on the basis of religion. Such religious segregation is without any reasonable differentiation and violates right to quality under Article 14, of the Indian Constitution.

As there were severe protests against the legislation, the Supreme Court in January 2020, thereby had issued notice in a batch of over 140 petitions, but, without staying the Act.

The Court had later hinted that the matter may be heard by a Constitution Bench, but no order was passed to that effect.

The affidavit by the Union Home Ministry said that that CAA is a narrowly tailored legislation which seeks to address the specific problem which awaited India’s attention for a solution since several decades.