SC asks centre and Assam govt to explain Muslim exclusion from modified Foreigners’ Rules

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: March 6, 2019

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna has issued notice to the two governments on a petition filed by the Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind challenging the relaxation in the Passport Rules and Foreigners Rules that allows religious minorities, except Muslims, facing persecution, particularly in the neighbouring countries, to continue to stay in India.


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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Central and Assam governments on the exclusion of Muslims from two notifications related to Passport Rules and Foreigners Rules that allow religious minorities facing persecution in neighbouring countries to stay in India even if they had entered without valid documents.
 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre on a fresh plea seeking to quash a series of subordinate laws which allows the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
 
The petitioners have urged the court to declare the amendments made through the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015; the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015 and the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 26, 2016 under the Citizenship Act, allowing the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, as “illegal and invalid”.
 
They have contended that the leeway offered by the subordinate laws would further multiply the “uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam”. The illegal immigration has caused huge demographic changes in the northeastern State, the petitioners claimed.
 
The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued a notice to the two governments on a petition filed by the Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind challenging the relaxation in the Passport Rules and Foreigners Rules.
 
The petitioner described the modification to Passport Rules and Foreigners Rules as discriminatory.
 
The court tagged the plea by Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind with the one filed by the Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha (Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill), which too has challenged the amendments to the Passport Rules and Citizens Rules framed under the respective statutes.
 
The notice on Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha was issued on February 27 and is returnable in six weeks' time.
 
Contending that the government could not have issued the two notifications in 2015 without amending the law, the petitioner has asked the apex court to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules 2015, notified on September 7, 2015, as "discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal".
 
Besides seeking the striking down of the 2015 notifications and the 2016 order of the Union Home Ministry in this regard, the petitioners wanted a 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 apex court had on February 27 issued notice on the plea filed by Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill which had sought to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order as "discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal".
 
Prior to this, it had decided to keep the plea pending saying that it would be taken up "only after the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill, consideration of which is now stated to be pending before the Rajya Sabha, reaches its finality".
 
The bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha and it would now be presented in the Upper House of Parliament.
 
Passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, the bill provides for according Indian citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who fled religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, after six years of residence in India instead of the 12 years currently, even if they do not possess any document.
 
It also seeks to provide relief to the persecuted migrants who have come through the western borders to states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, the home minister had said.
 
The PIL of Forum Against Citizenship Act Amendment Bill has opposed the bill on the ground that it had introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and termed it as "communally motivated humanitarianism".
 
"Never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as a ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens. It has introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and can be conveniently branded as ''communally motivated humanitarianism,” it said.
 
"The illegal immigrants who are to be granted the benefit of this legislation are to qualify for citizenship only on the basis of religion, a requirement that goes against one of the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution, secularism," it said.
 
It further sought directions to the Centre to constitute a National Immigration Commission or any other appropriate body to frame a National Immigration Policy and a National Refugee Policy.
 
With inputs from IANS.