India

Order on citizenship process for non-Muslim migrants challenged

MHA directive discriminates against a group, says plea in Supreme Court.

A May 28 order of the Ministry of Home Affairs inviting non-Muslim refugees such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists belonging to Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan residing in 13 districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab to apply for Indian citizenship is increasingly becoming the focus of challenge before the Supreme Court.

A recent petition filed in the Supreme Court by Anis Ahmed, through advocate Selvin Raja, said the government order “utterly discriminates and deprives a class of persons namely, the Muslims”.

Mr. Ahmed argued that the May 28 order does not withstand the test of Article 14 in as much as it treats people within a particular class, i.e, persons entitled to apply for citizenship by registration and naturalisation unequally by virtue of their religion.

Identical arguments have been made in two earlier petitions filed by Indian Union of Muslim League (IUML) and Popular Front of India in the Supreme Court against the Executive Order issued by the ministry.

Mr. Ahmed has urged the court to declare the MHA order “unconstitutional, discriminatory and ultravires” as it seeks to “utterly deprive the Muslims to seek for citizenship by registration and naturalisation unequally by virtue of their religion under sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act,1955”.

A fortnight ago, the IUML, through advocates Haris Beeran and Pallavi Pratap, urged the Supreme Court to stay the May 28 order. It said the order delegates the power to grant citizenship by registration and naturalisation to Collectors of these districts.

The IUML said the Home Ministry’s Order was a ruse to implement the “malafide designs” of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to grant Indian citizenship on the sole basis of religion.

According to the CAA, Indian citizenship would be given to non-Muslim persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian — who came to India till December 31, 2014.

The party said CAA was already under challenge before the Supreme Court. The May 28 order intends to circumvent judicial scrutiny.

The government had earlier averted a stay of the CAA by assuring the apex court that the Rules under the Act had not yet been framed. There were widespread protests in different parts of the country following the enactment of the CAA in 2019. In fact, Delhi had even seen riots in February last year.

The IUML had said classification of applicants for citizenship on the basis of religion is illegal. The order does not “withstand the test of Article 14 inasmuch as it treats people within a particular class i.e. persons entitled to apply for citizenship by registration and naturalisation unequally by virtue of their religion”.


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