The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear from December 5, pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act inserted by way of an amendment in 1985 in furtherance of the Assam Accord.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra deferred the hearing, which was to be heard on Tuesday after the Solicitor General of India and other senior counsels from the petitioners’ side mentioned the matter seeking to adjourn the hearing of the case.
The Solicitor General told the bench, “I am mentioning on my behalf and on behalf of the Attorney General for India. The case coming up tomorrow is the Citizenship Amendment Act. If the case can be deferred a bit. This is the last working week before Diwali and we just came out of one Constitution bench and, therefore, we need some time.”
The apex court then fixed the five-judge Constitution bench matter for hearing on December 5.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra was to hear the case on November 7.
On the last hearing, the apex court had said the title of the proceedings shall be, “In Re: Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”
On December 17, 2014 matter relating to citizenship in Assam was referred to the five-judge Constitution bench. On April 19, 2017, the top court constituted the bench to hear the case.
The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a list of Indian citizens containing all necessary information for their identification, was first formulated following the 1951 national census.
The Assam NRC is meant to identify illegal immigrants in the State who migrated from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
In 1985, the Indian government and the representatives of the Assam Movement negotiated and drafted the Assam Accord and created categories of immigrants.
The NRC exercise in Assam was carried out under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the rules framed in the Assam Accord 1985.
Section 6A of the Act was introduced to give effect to the Assam Accord. It provides the framework to recognise migrants in Assam as Indian citizens or to expel them based on the date of their migration.
The provision provides that those who have come to Assam on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971, from specified territories, including Bangladesh in 1985, and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section 18 for citizenship. Therefore, the provision fixes March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.
In 2013, the apex court directed the State of Assam to update the NRC.
On July 30, 2018, the final draft of the Assam NRC was released and 40.07 lakh applicants out of 3.29 crores were excluded from the NRC list, creating uncertainty about their citizenship status.
Later, the apex court said that this was merely a draft NRC and no action could be taken based on it. On August 31, 2019, the final NRC list was published and 19 lakh persons were excluded.
Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a Guwahati-based civil society organisation along with others had challenged Section 6A way back in 2012 while arguing that Section 6A is discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal so far as it provides for different cut-off dates for regularising illegal migrants who entered Assam and the rest of India.
The Bangladesh Liberation War which led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, witnessed a massive influx of migrants to India. Even prior to when Bangladesh gained independence from East Pakistan in 1971, migration had started to India.
On March 19, 1972, Bangladesh and India entered into a treaty for friendship, cooperation and peace. (ANI)