CAA: 250 petitions waiting in Supreme Court for 4.5 years

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which led the 250 petitions challenging CAA in the Supreme Court, now seeks a stay on the Rules

IUML also express concern to the SC over pending petitions challenging the CAA's provisions (photo: PTI)
IUML also express concern to the SC over pending petitions challenging the CAA's provisions (photo: PTI)

Ashlin Mathew

A day after the union government notified the rules to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the implementation of Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024.

In its petition, IUML underscored it had already filed a writ petition challenging the provisions of the CAA on the same day that it got assent from the President—on 12 December 2019—and that petition has been pending for 4.5 years. The Court had then issued a notice to the government, which responded that the rules had not even been framed yet.

IUML’s petition leads a batch of 250 that have challenged the CAA till now.

In its new interlocutory application, IUML said that the Supreme Court should stay the continued operation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, which would result in “valuable rights being created and citizenship being granted to persons belonging to only certain religions, thereby resulting in a fait accompli situation, during the pendency of the present writ petition”.

The petition also requested the apex court to pass an order against the state taking any coercive action against members of the Muslim community, which the IUML holds have been deprived of the benefit of applying for citizenship under the CAA rules. Alternatively, it asked that the apex court “direct the Union to provisionally permit persons belonging to the Muslim community to apply for citizenship and submit a report on their entitlement”.

In its petition, the IUML has said that the CAA Rules, 2024, created a highly truncated and fast-tracked process for granting citizenship. This process is manifestly arbitrary and creates an unfair advantage, it holds, in favour of one class of persons solely on grounds of religious identity—which is not permissible under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution, the petition argues.

The other argument from the IUML is that the new rules do away with a tiered process of scrutiny and thus remove procedural checks and balances in the system.

Older tiered system of scrutiny

According to the older Citizenship Rules of 2009:

  1. Those applying for citizenship must first fill up the relevant forms and submit them to the collector under whose jurisdiction the applicant's residence address lies.

  2. The collector would then prepare a report on the applicant and forward the application to the state government within 60 days.

  3. The state then would have to frame its own recommendation and forward the application to the union government within 30 days.

  4. Finally, the union government would scrutinise the application and arrive at a decision.

Now, the IUML petition points out, the new rules eliminate these tiered levels of scrutiny and grant power to a single district-level committee to verify documents and administer the oath of allegiance. Local and personal biases, therefore, cannot be ruled out.

Moreover, there is no longer any scope for the state government to submit its recommendations to the union government or for higher authorities to conduct their independent inquiries into the suitability of the applicant above the district level. This would seem to inveigh against federalism as well.

Other arguments against the CAA and the new Rules

As petitioner, the IUML has also argued that the impugned rules make a distinction between persons of Indian origin from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who belong to specific religious minority groups in these countries (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian) and other persons of Indian origin by creating a special process for only the specified groups. However, Muslims who are of Indian origin do not get to avail the benefits of this expedited process of registration, per the CAA.

The new petition also highlights that since 250 petitions are pending with the Supreme Court that challenge the provisions of CAA, then people who now obtain citizenship under these rules will have to be stripped of their citizenship if the Court decides that the CAA is unconstitutional. This, it submits, would create a difficult situation on the ground for all concerned.

Moreover, as the government has waited for 4.5 years to notify the rules, the petition suggests, waiting a little longer until the top court takes its final decision should not affect anybody’s rights or interest.

What does the law state?

The CAA will provide citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who came to India on or before 31 December 2014 from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It will be granted to those have lived in India in the last one year and at least five of the last 14 years. (Earlier, a person had to have resided in India for 11 years for citizenship by naturalisation.)

The law exempts areas which are under the 'Inner Line' regulation. The tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, which are included in Schedule IV of the Constitution, are part of this. These include the tribal areas of Karbi Anglong in Assam, the Garo Hills in Meghalaya, the Chakma district in Mizoram and the Tribal Areas district in Tripura. These states do share borders with the Muslim countries listed for CAA-based citizenship.

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