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Union Government defends CAA in affidavit filed in Supreme Court, says there is narrow scope of judicial review

"CAA is a benign piece of legislation which seeks to provide relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date," the affidavit states

In a 129-page affidavit, the Union Government has defended the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) before the Supreme Court of India. Emphasising on the powers vested in the Parliament to legislate on the subject of citizenship, it argued that CAA “may not be within the scope of judicial review.”

The affidavit was filed after a 3-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in January granted the Union Government 4 weeks time to respond to the petitions contesting the legality of the Citizenship Amendment Act. The apex court had refused to put a stay on the implementation of the humanitarian law.

The affidavit read, “CAA is a benign piece of legislation which seeks to provide relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date.” The government further argued, “CAA does not impinge upon any existing right that may have existed prior to the enactment of the amendment and further, in no manner whatsoever, seeks to affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any of the Indian citizens.”

The decision of the Government to make “reasonable classification” between the religious minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists) and the majority (Muslims) had drawn the ire of the left-liberal ecosystem in the country. The Centre has justified the classification as a “necessity” for the purpose of special legislation.

Highlighting the narrow scope of judicial review and the plight of religious minorities in India’s neighbourhood, the affidavit stated, “The constitutionality of such a legislative measure ought to be tested within that legislative domain and cannot be conflated to extend beyond that object and the reasons behind the Parliamentary cognizance of the issue by which the competent Legislature has, in its wisdom, devised a legislative policy to deal with the acknowledged problem of persecution of the particular communities in the specified countries who are, by their very Constitutions, theocratic countries.”

CAA which embraces the idea of India is aimed to speed up the citizenship process of minorities from neighbouring Islamic Republics of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who had to India before December 31, 2014, owing to religious persecution. Several petitions have been filed at the apex court against the legislation. A petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) alleges that it violates the fundamental Right to Equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion. IUML says that CAA us against the basic structure of the Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims.

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