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SC likely to refer case to Constitution Bench

By Kalyan Barooah
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NEW DELHI, Nov 14 � The Supreme Court is mulling to refer the case relating to illegal migrants to a Constitution Bench of the Apex Court, as a petitioner has challenged Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act and the cutoff date of March 25, 1971.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman, has for the last three days been hearing a bunch of petitions who have challenged update of National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the basis of the cutoff date, besides the challenging Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act, which in a way poses a challenge to Assam Accord.

Significantly, the All Assam Students� Union is also a party in the case. The Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act has been challenged by Asom Sanmilita Mahasangha, which has instead called for NRC of 1951 and voter�s roll of 1952, as the basis for detection and deportation of illegal migrants, as in rest of the country.

The Centre had inserted Section 6 A in the Indian Citizenship Act after the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, which had stated that migrants entering India after March 1971 would be detected and deported back to Bangladesh.

The Centre has, however, opposed the petition, urging the Supreme Court not to entertain the petition, which challenged a provision of the Citizenship Act.

Additional Solicitor General NK Kaul told the Bench that the Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act was inserted into the principal Act in 1985 and the plea has been filed nearly three decade after the amendment.

The Supreme Court significantly took serious note of the petitioners� argument that �cultural and political� conflicts were being caused allegedly due to the presence of immigrants before directing the Centre to take steps to deport them.

The court also asked the Centre to submit a detailed response regarding the number of �identified illegal immigrants�, and the cases initiated in the Tribunals set up under the Foreigners Act to take up the issue.

The court observed during the hearing that a �mass of humanity� had filed the petitions seeking �protection of rights under Article 21 and group rights�. �We can�t shut out the petition at the threshold on the ground of limitation,� said the court.

The court also observed that �political expediency� had �taken over� in Assam, where �mess has been created� as people were granted citizenship, even when they did not come within the protection of Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act.

�They could have been given refugee status instead of granting them citizenship right... They are not only aliens but enemy aliens,� the bench said while considering the argument that the original people from Assam have been displaced by these immigrants and ethnic clashes have occurred due to continuous conflict between the tribal groups and immigrants.

The persons, who are �suspected� to be illegal immigrants, should be asked to prove their credentials and deported if they fail to do so. �If some defence is given, then send the case to the tribunal,� ordered the court.

The counsel for the Assam government argued that the immigrants were actually �people of Indian origin�. However, the court said that they had become �not only aliens, but enemy aliens� after the partition of India.

The bunch of petitions also puts a question mark over the fate of the update of NRC, which is under way, as they have challenged the cutoff date.

On December 5, 2013 the Centre had issued a notification with regard to the State of Assam to update the National Register of Citizens which was also challenged by the petitioner.

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SC likely to refer case to Constitution Bench

NEW DELHI, Nov 14 � The Supreme Court is mulling to refer the case relating to illegal migrants to a Constitution Bench of the Apex Court, as a petitioner has challenged Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act and the cutoff date of March 25, 1971.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman, has for the last three days been hearing a bunch of petitions who have challenged update of National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the basis of the cutoff date, besides the challenging Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act, which in a way poses a challenge to Assam Accord.

Significantly, the All Assam Students� Union is also a party in the case. The Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act has been challenged by Asom Sanmilita Mahasangha, which has instead called for NRC of 1951 and voter�s roll of 1952, as the basis for detection and deportation of illegal migrants, as in rest of the country.

The Centre had inserted Section 6 A in the Indian Citizenship Act after the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, which had stated that migrants entering India after March 1971 would be detected and deported back to Bangladesh.

The Centre has, however, opposed the petition, urging the Supreme Court not to entertain the petition, which challenged a provision of the Citizenship Act.

Additional Solicitor General NK Kaul told the Bench that the Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act was inserted into the principal Act in 1985 and the plea has been filed nearly three decade after the amendment.

The Supreme Court significantly took serious note of the petitioners� argument that �cultural and political� conflicts were being caused allegedly due to the presence of immigrants before directing the Centre to take steps to deport them.

The court also asked the Centre to submit a detailed response regarding the number of �identified illegal immigrants�, and the cases initiated in the Tribunals set up under the Foreigners Act to take up the issue.

The court observed during the hearing that a �mass of humanity� had filed the petitions seeking �protection of rights under Article 21 and group rights�. �We can�t shut out the petition at the threshold on the ground of limitation,� said the court.

The court also observed that �political expediency� had �taken over� in Assam, where �mess has been created� as people were granted citizenship, even when they did not come within the protection of Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act.

�They could have been given refugee status instead of granting them citizenship right... They are not only aliens but enemy aliens,� the bench said while considering the argument that the original people from Assam have been displaced by these immigrants and ethnic clashes have occurred due to continuous conflict between the tribal groups and immigrants.

The persons, who are �suspected� to be illegal immigrants, should be asked to prove their credentials and deported if they fail to do so. �If some defence is given, then send the case to the tribunal,� ordered the court.

The counsel for the Assam government argued that the immigrants were actually �people of Indian origin�. However, the court said that they had become �not only aliens, but enemy aliens� after the partition of India.

The bunch of petitions also puts a question mark over the fate of the update of NRC, which is under way, as they have challenged the cutoff date.

On December 5, 2013 the Centre had issued a notification with regard to the State of Assam to update the National Register of Citizens which was also challenged by the petitioner.

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