Activists Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, historian Irfan Habib, economist Prabhat Patnaik and some organisations on Monday approached the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and sought direction to strike it down.
The plea filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan sought direction to declare the Act as unconstitutional and illegal.
“These notifications and the Amendment Act are unconstitutional as they are discriminatory and violate the right to equality of all persons under the constitutional scheme. They are discriminatory towards illegal migrants from other countries in the neighbourhood of India apart from the three countries as well as discriminatory towards other minority communities such as Muslims, Jews, Ahmadiyas or Atheists who do not identify with a religious group,” the plea said.
The activists further said that this classification on the basis of religion, country of origin or kind of persecution or date of entry or place of residence in India, is an unreasonable classification and hence discriminatory.
“Granting citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the grain of our Constitution. Religious pluralism and secularism have been the foundation of our country since Independence,” it added.
“Our constitutional scheme does not allow discrimination on the basis of religion or country of origin or kind of persecution. This cannot be the basis of granting citizenship. The religious basis of citizenship would be a negation of the secular and inclusive fabric of our Constitution,” it added.
The petitioners said that the Act also violates Article 21 of the Constitution as it violates the right to live with dignity of individuals who are not covered under the special dispensation of the Amendment Act, solely on the basis of their membership to a particular religion.
Muslim Advocates Association, a registered society, has also approached the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 asking to declare the new law as unconstitutional.
The Act violates Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution, as well as the Constitution’s basic structure, the association plea said.
Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) also challenged the Act, while seeking direction to declare it in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution as it is discriminatory, manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable and irrational.
DYFI’s plea said the Act is challenged wherein first-time religion is introduced as a reference point, condition for acquisition of Indian Citizenship for illegal/ undocumented migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“Citizenship is being extended to certain a class of illegal/undocumented migrants belonging to the religion of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Such classification on the basis of religious identity of the individual clearly violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Moreover, the classification based on the religious identity of the individual offends the fundamental principle of ”Secularism”, which is enshrined as the basic structure of the Constitution,” the plea added.
During the day, two more petitions were filed in the top court, one by the Makkal Needhi Maiam, a political party-led by actor-turned-politician Kaman Haasan and another by Padi Richo, former MLA and a resident of Arunachal Pradesh.
Both petitions said that the exclusion of Muslim beneficiaries from the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is violative of Articles 14 and 21, apart from contravening basic principles of secularism.