The Centre in a preliminary affidavit in the Supreme Court establishing the necessity of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) says the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a necessary exercise for any sovereign country for identification of citizens from non-citizens.
Citing the importance of the NRC, the Centre in the affidavit said it may not be out of place to mention that as per the information available in open sources in many countries, there is a system of maintaining registers of their citizens.
“In fact, national identification cards are issued based upon the exercise of identification of citizens in these countries. In Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan also there is a system of issuance of such cards”, said the affidavit. The Centre mentioned NRC while giving its response on the challenge to Section 14A of the Act.
The 129-page affidavit said that as per the existing statutory regime, there are three classes of persons residing in India: citizens, illegal migrants and foreigners on valid visas. Therefore, the responsibility entrusted on the Centre, on a combined reading of the Foreigners Act, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the 1955 Act to identify/detect illegal migrants and thereafter, follow the due process of law.
“The legal provisions regarding the National Register of Citizens i.e. Section 14A of the 1955 Act have been part of the said 1955 Act since December 2004. It is submitted that said provisions consist merely of the procedure and the authority concerned for the preparation of a national register of citizens”, said the affidavit.
The Centre said the assertions of the petitioners, challenging the CAA and NRC, that the requirement for registration of citizenship has been delegated to the executive are erroneous as the National Register of Citizens does not create any embargo on any form of citizenship.
The affidavit said that the delegation has been only of the procedure to be adopted while conducting the said exercise. “It is submitted that the provisions of the Section 14 A and the 2003 rules apply to all citizens of India without any discrimination and empower the Central government through the machinery of Registrar General of India to take further action in compliance of the legislative mandate”, said the Centre in the affidavit.
The Centre said the Multiparty Parliamentary Committee not only agreed with the need for compulsory registration of citizens of India and issuance of National Identity Cards to them but left it to the executive to prescribe merely a procedure to implement the legislative mandate.
“It is submitted that after the recommendations of this Parliamentary Committee, Parliament passed The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in December 2003 which was finally notified for commencement on 3rd December 2004″, said the Centre.
The Centre also told the Supreme Court that the CAA does not violate any fundamental right provisions of the constitution and therefore, the question of violation of constitutional morality does not arise.
The amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
The Centre insisted, unlike the particular neighbouring countries, “India is a constitutionally secular country and further has a large population of persons belonging to the classified communities already residing as Indian citizens”.
The Centre said after considering the totality of factors, including factors of international geopolitics, the demographic profile of nations surrounding the particular neighbouring countries, the situation of or the presence of other persons of classified communities in other nations surrounding the neighbouring classified countries and the presence of state religions/theocratic regimes in other countries surrounding the neighbouring classified countries, “makes it amply clear that India represents the sole rational and logically feasible place to seek shelter for the said communities.”
The Centre in the affidavit said, “It is submitted that constitutional morality is not an unruly horse and cannot become an independent basis for challenging the constitutionality of validly enacted legislation.”
The Centre in the affidavit said that the CAA, 2019 does not confer any arbitrary or unguided powers upon the executive. “Under Section 6B(1) the Central Government or a specified authority would grant citizenship only in a manner where certain conditions & restrictions would be satisfied by the applicant. Appropriate rules under Section 6B are being framed to clearly lay down these conditions, restrictions and manner of the grant of citizenship”, said the affidavit.
Addressing the issue of citizenship for Rohingyas, the Centre said that thousands of Rohingyas have come into India mainly through Bangladesh in search of better economic opportunities. “It is submitted that the Rohingyas are not on the same footing as the religiously persecuted minorities who have fled into India from the particular neighbouring countries”, said the Centre. (IANS)