The Citizenship Amendment Act does not affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of Indian citizens, the Union government told the Supreme Court on Sunday, reported Bar and Bench.
The Act provides citizenship to refugees from six non-Muslim religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
Over 200 petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court against the contentious Act that petitioners argue promotes religion-based discrimination and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which deals with equality before the law.
In an affidavit, the Centre said it is a “focused law” that seeks to provide a relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from specified countries with a clear cut-off date.
Urging the court to dismiss the pleas, the Centre said that the legislation seeks to tackle the problem of persecution on the ground of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The government also said that the Act does not seek to recognise or provide answers to any kind of persecution that may be taking place across the world.
“In that regard, the CAA is a narrowly tailored legislation seeking to address the specific problem which awaited India’s attention for a solution since several decades,” it added.
On the contentions of some of the petitions, the government said that the Act does not way encourage illegal migration into Assam and described it as unfounded apprehension.
The government added that that the scope for judicial review in the matter “would be very restrictive and limited considering wider width of legislative policy and legislative wisdom available to the competent legislature”.
The court will hear the petitions later on Monday.
The Centre has said that the citizenship law only seeks to provide relief to members of persecuted communities living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
However, critics fear that the Citizenship Amendment Act, clubbed with the National Register of Citizens, will be misused to target Muslims in the country.
The National Register of Citizens is meant to be a list of legal Indian citizens. It was compiled after two draft versions and excluded 19 lakh applicants when it was published in Assam in August 2019.
The Act is yet to be implemented as its rules have not been framed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the law will be enforced as soon as the pandemic ends.