Guwahati: The Supreme Court will commence hearing on November 7 to examine the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act relating to illegal immigrants in Assam.
This was stated by Assam Sanmilito Mahasangha working president Matiur Rahaman while addressing a press conference here on Friday.
The Assam Sanmilito Mahasangha, which is supported by 105 organisations, challenged section 6A in 2012, terming it arbitrary, discriminatory and unconstitutional claiming it provides different dates for regularising illegal migrants in Assam.
Section 6A in the Citizenship Act was inserted as a special provision to deal with the citizenship of people covered by the Assam Accord signed on August 15, 1985.
The provision provides that those who have come to Assam on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971, from specified territories, including Bangladesh, as per the Citizenship Act amended in 1985, and since then are residents of Assam. They must register themselves under section 18 for citizenship.
“As a result, the provision fixes March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam. More than 80 lakh Bangladeshi immigrants (both Hindu and Muslims) have been granted citizenship under the provision,” Rahman, who is also one of the petitioners of the case in the Supreme Court, said.
“The SC bench was scheduled to hear the case from October 17. The apex court has ordered all stakeholders to submit affidavits before October 10. But the Central and the Assam governments are yet to file their submissions, even after crossing the deadline. This has promoted the SC bench to defer the date of hearing again,” Rahman said.
This writ petition also challenges the constitutional validity of
Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, in the top court,” Rahman said.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna, M.M. Sundresh, J.B. Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra will hear the case.
As many as 17 petitions are pending on the issue in the apex court. Prior to this, the Constitution bench had directed the parties to file joint compilations consisting of written submissions; precedents; and any other documentary material on which reliance will be placed at the time of the hearing.
Under the Assam Accord signed by the All Assam Students Union, the Assam government and the Central government on August 15, 1985, to detect and deport foreigners, Section 6A was inserted into the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to people who have migrated to Assam.
The pleas challenging the provision contended that the same was discriminatory as it violated Article 6 of the Constitution.
The SC on December 17, 2014, had framed 13 questions to cover various issues that were raised challenging the constitutionality of section 6A. In December 2015, the bench after framing 13 issues had referred them for adjudication.
On October 9, Supreme Court lawyer Vijay Hansaria filed a submission in the apex court on behalf of Assam Sanmilito Mahasangha, urging the apex court to strike down section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 describing it as unconstitutional.
It was submitted that by section 6A of the Citizenship Act, the illegal migrants only of Assam have been conferred citizenship by deemed provision.
“The entire expense for the welfare activities of the illegal migrants in Assam is borne by the state, out of the tax paid by the people of Assam. Conferring citizenship to the illegal migrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to Assam has changed the entire demography of the state. There is no intelligible difference between the illegal migrants to Assam and those illegal migrants to the neighbouring states, nor is there any object which is sought to be achieved by such discriminatory provision,” it said.
“An illegal migrant entering Assam before the specified dates July 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, would be entitled to citizenship; whereas an illegal migrant entering a neighbour State such as West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura would continue to be illegal migrants and liable to deportation under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946. These illegal migrants in the neighbouring states have not even been given the status of refugees nor are they entitled to any welfare measures of the Central or the state government, as there is no rehabilitation policy for the Bangladeshi refugees in those states,” it also added.
“Thus, the provision of section 6A of the Citizenship Act is discriminatory without any intelligible differentia and any object sought to be achieved. The provisions are also manifestly arbitrary. Section 6A is thus liable to be struck down as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” it summed up.
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