A fresh plea has been filed by an NGO in the Supreme Court challenging the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, claiming that it is violative of fundamental rights granted under the Constitution and needs to be set aside.
The plea filed by NGO Association for Protection of Civil Rights and others also sought a direction to the Centre to refrain from preparing the National Register of Citizens.
The NGO also sought interim stay on the CAA saying it would lead to irreversible consequences as the citizenship once granted cannot be reversed and such a person cannot be rendered stateless retrospectively, even if the disputed Act and notifications are declared unconstitutional subsequently.
"The petitioners herein are challenging the impugned Act as well as the impugned provisions and the impugned notifications, as being violative of Articles 13, 14, 15, 21, 51(c) and 51-A of the Constitution of India. It is submitted that the impugned Act, the impugned provisions and the impugned notifications are manifestly arbitrary and ought to be set aside..." the plea said.
It said the CAA makes professing of certain religions as a ground of eligibility for the status of citizenship which is against the principle of secularism and is violative of the basic structure of the constitution.
The NGO, while challenging the CAA on various other grounds, said, "the impugned Act and the impugned notifications are discriminatory as it is directed against Muslims on the basis of their religion and place of birth".
In its plea, the NGO said, "if the provisions of the CAA are operationalized and the NRC is prepared, several undocumented Indians will become stateless and therefore, it is submitted that this Court maybe pleased to direct the Respondent Union of India from refraining to prepare NRC arbitrarily".
The petition filed through advocate Ejaz Maqbool have also challenged Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, terming it as "arbitrary" and unconstitutional.
It said section 3(1) lays down different parameters for granting citizenship to children born in India in different periods.
Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, grants citizenship to children born in India in different periods in three different scenarios.
In the first scenario -- children born in India on or after January 26, 1950 but before July 1,1987, were entitled to Indian Citizenship by birth.
In the second scenario -- children born in India on or after July 1, 1987 but before commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, were entitled to Indian Citizenship by birth only if either of her/his parents was an Indian Citizen.
In the third scenario -- children born in India on or after commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, were entitled to Indian Citizenship by birth only if both of her/his parents were Indian Citizens or one of her/his parents was an Indian Citizen and the other was not an illegal migrant.
The NGO in its plea said though in first scenario while there are no conditions on children born between January 26, 1950 to July 1, 1987 for attaining Indian citizenship, in the other two scenarios it creates a certain class of stateless children.
"Section 3(1) provides for different treatment to children as per their date of birth and renders certain category of children stateless on the basis of classification on date of birth, which is manifestly arbitrary."
It said treating the excluded children as stateless is also violative of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990 to which India is a signatory.
On December 18, the apex court had agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the CAA, but refused to stay its operation.
The newly amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, turning it into an Act.
The top court had then issued notice to the Centre and sought its response by the second week of January on a batch of pleas challenging the CAA.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had fixed a batch of 59 petitions, including those filed by the Indian Union Muslim League and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, for hearing on January 22.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, including by Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
Several other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union, Peace Party, CPI, NGOs 'Rihai Manch' and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.