Centre to implement CAA through backdoor, making SC, parliament silent spectatorstext_fields
New Delhi: Modi government appears to leave the Supreme Court and Parliament mere spectators when it has moved forward on its decision to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring countries.
As treating people with discrimination based on religion runs against absolutely against the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution, the move is likely to engender another legal battle with several potential petitioners preparing to challenge the Central orders in the court.
The government issued a gazette notification on Friday granting powers under existing rules to authorities in 13 districts of Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to accept, verify and approve citizenship applications from members of minority communities hailing from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. But this order has been issued under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship Rules, 2009 and not under the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 since its rules have not yet been framed.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed in the Parliament in 2019, had ignited enough controversy and nation-wide protests as it involved religious discrimination and was against the constitutional values of India. The problematic Act thus triggered around 140 petitions against it at the Supreme Court so far. These petitions, which were adjourned for the final hearing, were not considered yet by the court, despite the lapse of a year and a half.
The fresh orders released by the Centre stand in stark contrast to what the government testified before the court in February last year. When the petitioners had appealed to the court to stay the Act, the Centre argued against the stay order stating that rules were not formulated then to implement it, which the court had accepted - with implied status that no fresh moves in the matter of citizenship would be made by the government. But now the Centre is proceeding with the same step, on the strength of an earlier law, the only difference being the cutoff date for the citizenship seekers' length of stay in India.
In other words, the Centre is implementing the same provisions it put forward in the bill by the "backdoor" without formulating new rules. Since the new notification is not different from the CAA, the petitioners have decided to challenge it too in court.
In line with the provisions of the old bill, the new notification directs authorities to grant citizenship to those who resided in India for 11 years and lays down that all non-Muslims who came to India within 2014 December 31 will receive citizenship. In the citizenship bill formulated in 2009, the Centre added laws based on religion during 2016 and 2018. While the Centre argues that no new rules have been formulated regarding the bill, they are expanding the procedure under CAA over more districts. Pushing the old provisions into action instead of forming new rules, once parliament has passed a new law on the subject, is against accepted precedents.
As per the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), India will grant citizenship to Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, and Jain refugees from the three countries, i.e, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
The new notification expanded the Act. If the Supreme Court finds the CAA or or any rules framed under it unconstitutional, the Centre's new notification will become invalid.