Citizenship amendment act has been in controversy since it was passed by the Lok Sabha and further, the air around it got thickened when it was passed by the Rajya Sabha, further asserted by the President (on the very next day). The act led to country-wide protests and unrest which disrupted the whole machinery of the administration and peace of the state. The disappointed youth of India is alleging that the Citizenship Amendment Act,2019 is unconstitutional as it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution i.e. Right to Equality. The Act amends some parts of the original legislation and provides concession to the non-Muslim illegal migrants in acquiring citizenship.
The Act clearly states that the illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afganistan belonging to six minorities i.e. Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Sikh will be given leverage by shortening the naturalization period from 11 years to 5 years in order to acquire citizenship, thus clearly discriminating the Muslim community.
The Government in response to these allegations has replied that – the very intention behind this piece of legislation is the protection of these minorities which are facing religious persecution in the neighboring countries i.e. Pakistan, Afganistan, and Bangladesh (where Muslims are in majority). By the point of Government, it is obvious that in these abovementioned countries, the Muslims are safe in terms of religious persecution unlike the six minorities mentioned in the Act. However, there are other minority communities such as Ahmedia Muslims, Rohingya Muslims (Burma) and the Indian origin Tamilians (Sri-Lanka) that are also facing religious persecution in their respective countries but the Act is silent about them.
The government gave a rationale that when the partition was done, Pakistan was created in order to provide Muslims their separate nation while the Hindu League wanted a separate nation for the Hindus. However the leaders of new India wanted that the country should not be a complete Hindu State but a secular state whereas Pakistan was created to protect the Muslim culture and to safeguard it, so why would the act protect these illegal Muslim migrants? Bangladesh was also a result of the same partition and Afganistan is also a state where Muslims are in majority. If we try to look upon the other reason of the act discriminating the Muslims it can be the terrorist acts i.e. majority terrorists are illegal Muslim migrants who solely comes to India to disrupt its peace and order and in addition to it, the funding of these terrorist attacks are done from the above-mentioned countries. There also have been instances where great number of illegal Muslim migrants have created disturbances in the North-Eastern states and other bordering states. In order to categorize the Act as constitutional or unconstitutional, it has to pass the test of Right to Equality and in order to check it, we should analyze that the differential class which has been created by the Legislature is intelligible or not? According to me the intelligible differentia so created is right and just and is done for the greater good of the country and is not degrading or discriminating the Muslims in any way. If a layman or any person reads such an act, he or she would find the act discriminating but if he or she looks upon the broader picture, he would understand its importance.
Emotionally screening the act will lead to disappointment, the people should keep in mind the legal principles and the intention by which the legislation is created. In a democratic country people are allowed to express their resentment but in a peaceful way i.e. the act was only asserted by the President and the Government was yet to finalize and announce the rules, procedures, and policies for implementation for the mentioned law, so the public had ample time to appeal against it in a court of law or could have done peaceful protests but the protests turned violent and caused huge damage to life and property of the people and unfortunately stern actions were taken by the government to suppress it.
Some of the actions (by the Government) were too grave and serious such as the Jamia Milia Islamia College incident where the Government undoubtedly exercised its authority beyond the reasonable limits and the internet bans in some states which were done arbitrarily and repeatedly were vague and clearly violated the human rights. The Government should also clearly convey their stand about the intention of making this law, if the law is creating such unrest in the country the Government should come out in open strongly to express itself and to satisfy the people of India.
Comparison of the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens
It was observed that when the current National Register of Citizens of Assam was completed, 1.9 million Hindus were left out from it, among them some were poor local Hindus which were accidentally left out and many were Bengali Hindus which migrated from Bangladesh to India. After the Citizenship Amendment Act got assented, the Assamese got feared that this law would enable such a large number of Bengali Hindus to legally stay in their land which would negatively affect their culture and tribal practices. However, this Act has been interpreted falsely, as this Act would not enable all the 1.9 million people to stay legally in the land but would only allow very few people which are already living in Assam for decades to get the citizenship i.e. they have to prove that either they or their ancestors were living in Assam since March 24, 1971. Further, when the applications would be processed, the final list consisting of the names would be published with full transparency. Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens can be considered as two sides of the same coin where the Act works as a shield against the National Register of Citizens thus giving some controlled remedy to the left out 1.9 million people.
Many petitions have been filed by various Advocates and Senior Advocates of Supreme Court and the proposed date for their presentation is 22 January, 2020. All activists, lawyers, students, teachers and even the laymen are waiting for the decision till then the Government is trying to maintain the law and order of the country. I being the citizen of the country would request the people of India to maintain composure and peace for the welfare of the society and have faith in our Judiciary.