It is manifestly clear from an earnest reading of the Constitution of India, Article 14 in particular, that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is neither anti-Muslim nor it violates Article 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution. One of the arguments put forward by the individuals, mostly those studying in universities and law schools, who are opposing it is that CAA fails on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
The principal test of Article 14 as per the constitution is reasonable classification, which should be based on intelligible differentia. The classification must be in nexus with the object of the act which is sought to be achieved. The object of the act is to deal with the discrimination of religious minorities who have been persecuted in three neighbouring countries i.e. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Based on such object, the classification is reasonable because it acknowledges the unequal nature of persecuted minorities vis-à-vis Muslim majorities of those specific countries which is justified in making such differentiation and should be considered valid as per the Constitution. Secondly, Article 15 of the constitution applies to only citizens and it will not be applicable to persons as defined under Article 14 of the Constitution.
But unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation which is being spread about the Amendment Act across various parts of India, especially in the educational institutions. Protests are being organised in the country by individuals and students who are not aware about the exact contents of the Act and such people are engaging in vandalism and disruption across country. Apart from vandalism, the fear mongering which is being done by some leaders is very worrisome. The act is being portrayed as Anti-Muslims and a false perception of all Muslims citizens being disenfranchised is being created.
The CAA is very limited in its scope, which allows only 6 communities from 3 of our neighbouring countries to apply for citizenship. Another requirement, as mentioned earlier is that communities which are exempted from trial under a foreign tribunal must have resided in India before 31st December 2014. Therefore, even if NRC leaves a few people out (as being apprehended, for which there is no rule yet), the presumption that non-Muslims will automatically be protected by the Act is founded on misinformation. Any hysteria and fear-mongering based on such distorted facts which are far from reality only go on to prove that these are politically motivated. Sadly, students across various universities and law schools are falling prey to such political propaganda.
Students in some universities are protesting, one of the universities which is at the forefront of the opposing the CAA is Jamia Milia Islamia, the protest which was organised by the students is claimed to be peaceful under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution recognises the right of students (or anyone) to protest peacefully but at the same time if any unlawful act is committed which disturbs the public order then it would allow police to exercise their power to stop such disruption and restore public order in such disturbed area.
Several news reports and videos that surfaced showed that the miscreants were pelting stones from inside, or were running inside the university campus after throwing stones, apart from causing destruction to several buses and motor-vehicles around the university area.
There are various reports to suggest that students were hiding inside the universities after causing arson and attacking the police by pelting stones. Generally, police resist from entering the university campuses but that must be decided by them based on the assessment of the situation which gives them some much-needed discretion for restoring public order. Unlawful protest, which was very active in this case, allows the police to perform their duty which they are legally bound to perform.
If the police get any information about any unlawful act, they are bound by law to restore public order within the ambit of law. Also, if there are any rules framed by the university which prevents police to enter the campus without any permission, then also the law under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) will prevail over such rule. As per Section 41 of the CrPC police can make arrests even with or without a warrant from the magistrate. Similarly, Section 47 and 48 of the CrPC give police officers power to pursue such miscreant if the officers have a reason to believe that person has entered or hiding in an area. Force can also be applied by the police in case the miscreants try to resist police action through force (Section 46 CrPC). The action of the police was within the ambit of law and there is no law in place which prevents police to enter the university campus.
Other aspect of such protest is fear mongering that is being incited in the country, the same is very harmful for the peaceful fabric of our nation. Few students across country are organising protests in support of Jamia and the action of police is being condemned by them without having concrete information about the nature and extent of protest which ultimately compelled the police to act and make arrests by using force to counter the force used by the students while making arrests. Students across National Law Universities, who are expected to uphold the constitutional values and spirit of democracy, are releasing statements of solidarity against alleged police brutality by Delhi Police for ensuring public order.
Vandalism by students across Jamia and AMU is being legitimised through such statements of solidarity released by a handful of students from these top law universities. In the name of solidarity few students who are generally very vocal in their universities have ganged up by creating Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act groups.
Such dominant but uninformed view against the act has been imposed by them on the neutral students who do not agree with them, but these neutral and pro-CAA voices are not able to put forward their opinion because of the fear of getting labelled or being ostracised. Students across these universities are being mocked, bullied and mentally harassed for having a different but informed opinion. This imposition of views by few goes against the spirit of democracy and does not allow other people to present their opinion. Suppression of majority of dissent voices that are in support of CAA across National Law Universities is very prevalent and it has happened to a lot of students across country.
Without being emotive about this issue if one just considers the constitutionality of this law then it would pass the test. But it is being completely ignored by few students of top educational institutions in the country who are opposing it for propagating false beliefs about the CAA and its implementation.
(This article has been co-authored by Akshat Kaushik, who is a law student at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata)
Shubhendu Anand is a lawyer, practicing primarily in the Supreme Court of India, and is Chamber Junior to the Additional Solicitor General of India.