The whole nation is discussing and debating the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act. Everyone has become an expert on law and constitution. Many are arguing that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) violates Article 14 of the constitution that guarantees the fundamental right of equality. Does CAA really violate article 14?
Article 14 provides that state shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the territory of India.
The article does not provide for absolute mathematical equality but allows equal treatment to equals and reasonable classification for the purpose of lawmaking.
Supreme Court in Clarence Pais v. Union of India held that ‘Historical reasons may justify differential treatment of separate geographical regions provided it bears a reason and just relation to the matter in respect of which differential treatment is accorded.’
So legislation will not be violative of Article 14 merely because it makes a differentiation between various geographical regions. Such legislation is valid and constitutionally sound if there are historical reasons for such differentiation and there is a just relation between the reason and the matter in respect of which differentiation is made.
The CAA creates a class of persons belonging to certain religions that are in minority in 3 countries. So there is differentiation on a geographical basis and there is a historic justification of such differentiation and also there is a clear Nexus between this justification and the matter for which differentiation is accorded. Let’s go step by step,
The class is of people who are Hindus, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists, Christians and who have come to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh. This class is of people
1) belonging to minorities
2) coming to India on or before 31 Dec 2014
3) persecuted in their country on the basis of religion
4) Coming from the countries that have a specific official state religion and that share borders with India.
So the class is well defined. The matter in respect of which the classification is made is giving citizenship of India.
The historic justification is the factum of partition on religious grounds and this subcontinent having ben one nation once. The Nexus is clear, the injustice suffered by people having their roots in India due to partition and the promise made to keep our doors open. This, CAA is very much in consonance with the Idea of India, the idea of humanity and the idea of Justice to our people.
When connected with NRC, it gives added protection to this class of people and that’s all. NRC if implemented will simply result in the deportation of illegal immigrants who do not belong to this class and who belong to this class but haven’t availed to the opportunity of applying for Indian citizenship.
If you feel letting illegal migrants stay here and get citizenship then that’s a completely different topic. But if you feel CAA is violative of the right to equality, you are mistaken, misinformed and wrong.