Prabhati Nayak Mishra
Stepping into the shoe of UPA government, the BJP-led NDA on Thursday told the Supreme Court not to entertain a PIL which challenged a provision of the Citizenship Act which allows granting citizenship to Bangladeshis migrated to the state of Assam.
Appearing for Centre, Additional solicitor General NK Kaul told the bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi 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.
Taking into account the petitioner’s argument that “cultural and political” conflicts being caused allegedly due to the presence of immigrants, the bench asked the government to furnish details regarding the number of identified illegal immigrants, and the number of cases initiated in the tribunals set up under the Foreigners Act to try cases of alleged illegal migrants.
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 grounds 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.
Tribal groups from Assam have moved the Apex Court through advocate Somiran Sharma seeking protection of their linguistic, social and cultural rights which was violated due to increasing number of Bangladeshis in the state.
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.
Section 6A of the Indian Citizenship Act was inserted after the 1985 Assam Accords, which had stated that immigrants entering India after March 1971 would be deported back to Bangladesh. The issue takes on more importance as the Congress Government in Assam had announced in July that it would grant citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants who had been saying in the state even after 1971.