NEW DELHI, Feb 27 - Days after the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was abandoned by the NDA government in Rajya Sabha, the Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre and Assam government on a plea challenging the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Act.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna issued a notice to the Centre and the Assam government and asked them to file a response. �Issue notice returnable in six weeks,� the Supreme Court ordered.
One of the petitioners, Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhanbirodhi Mancha (Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill) has sought declaration of the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Act as �discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal�.
The petition also opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on the ground that it had introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and termed it as �communally motivated humanitarianism�.
But the Bill, which was discarded by the NDA government at the last moment in the Upper House on February 13, will lapse with the expiry of the term of the current Narendra Modi government on June 3.
The Forum and others, including Dr Hiren Gohain, Manjit Mahanta and Harekrishna Deka, have also sought that the Foreigners Amendment Order, 2015, which was notified on September 7, 2015, be declared illegal.
Besides seeking striking down of the 2015 notifications and the 2016 order of the Union Home Ministry, the petitioners want direction to the Centre to take effective steps for the �conservation and preservation of the distinct culture, heritage and traditions of the indigenous people of Assam.�
The Forum has contended that the government could not have issued the two notifications in 2015 without amending the law, which was only now being done.
Pointing to the �uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam causing huge demographic changes reducing the once majority indigenous people to a minority in their own land�, the Forum has sought protection of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 (equality before law), Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination), Article 19 (Freedom of speech and expression), Article 21 (Right to life) and Article 25 (Right to freedom of religion).
The petitioners contended that the amendment Bill under challenge was in violation of the Assam Accord, which treated all those who entered the State post March 1971 as illegal migrants.
The amendment defeats the purpose of the Assam Accord and opens the floodgates to more illegal immigration and consequently, increases claims on diminishing resources, they said. The petitioners contended that religious persecution may in the given facts and circumstances could be a reasonable principle for differentiation but �it cannot be articulated in a manner that dilutes the republican and secular foundation of citizenship in India and goes against constitutional morality�.
Contending that under the theory of basic structure of the Constitution certain characteristics that could not be taken away by any legislation, the petitioners asserted that any legislation that �fails the test of basic structure of the Constitution is unconstitutional and secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution�.