“The CAA does not impinge upon any existing rights of a citizen. It won’t affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of people,” said the government in a preliminary affidavit to the Supreme Court.
New Delhi: The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is “perfectly legal and constitutional”, the government today told the Supreme Court, asserting that the citizenship law was a matter concerning the sovereign power of parliament and “could not be questioned” before the court.
“Only parliament has got sovereign powers to legislate on citizenship,” said the government in a preliminary affidavit to the Supreme Court.
“Under Article 246 of the Constitution, the parliament has got the exclusive power to make laws with respect to any matters listed in the list One in 7th schedule, in that, item 17 is to do with citizenship and naturalisation of aliens,” the Centre’s affidavit argued, defending the controversial law at the heart of nationwide protests.
“The CAA does not impinge upon any existing rights of a citizen. It won’t affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of people,” it asserted, reiterating that the law does not take away citizenship but is about giving citizenship.
The CAA, said the government, did not relate to any Indian. “Neither does it create any citizenship to them nor takes it away,” it added.
The court is hearing scores of petitions challenging that CAA, passed in parliament in December, which enables Indian citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they fled religious persecution and entered India before 2015. Critics fear that the law is discriminatory and will leave thousands of Muslims stateless.
The government said the petitions challenging the law do not explain how it discriminates against minorities living in the country.
“Parliament is competent to earmark the religious minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said the centre.
It argued that the doctrine of “reasonable classification” did provide for exceptions from equal application of law in certain situations.
While Article 14 did talk about equality before law and equal protection before law, the government said, the Supreme Court had pronounced “more than 20 judgments” where it says that if there is a reasonable classification of groups who form a class by themselves then that legislation will be valid.
“Here a persecuted, victimised group based on the faith of six communities from the three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, which are declared Islamic countries, form that reasonable classification,” said the affidavit.