UNHRC moves Supreme Court over CAA, India says Act an internal matter
UNHRC in SC: The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights has filed an intervention application in the Indian Supreme Court over the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had informed India’s Permanent Mission in Geneva on March 2, 2020 that her office has filed an intervention in the apex court over the CAA matter. The move is unprecedented and received a sharp retort from the Indian government.
The spokesperson of the Union Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar, stated that the Citizenship Amendment Act is India’s internal matter and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws.
UNHRC’s intervention application: Key Details
The intervention application was filed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. She stated that the UN organization wished to intervene in the CAA matter as “amicus curiae” in its efforts to protect and promote human rights and conduct necessary advocacy in regard to the same. The intervention plea was filed in the writ petition challenging the CAA, filed by retired IFS officer Deb Mukharji.
Though the UN body acknowledged that the CAA had a “commendable purpose” and can benefit thousands of migrants, it stated that the Act raised important questions on the international human rights law and its application on refugees.
The UNHRC underlined in its application that under the international human rights law, the states must ensure that the migrants under their territorial jurisdiction receive non- discriminatory treatment, regardless of the documentation they possess and their legal status and they should be provided protection from discrimination, including on the basis of religion.
The UN body stated that the civil rights extended by states to its citizens must also be extended to all individuals including refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other persons regardless of their nationality or statelessness.
It also said that while the CAA reduces the risk of persecution for certain communities by protecting them from returning to a country where they are likely to be subjected to persecution, it places other communities at such risk.
It also added saying that the difference in treatment based on religion would constitute discrimination if the criteria for establishing the difference do not achieve a legitimate objective and are not proportionate to the achievement of that objective.
India’s response to UNHRC application
India on March 3, 2020 completely rejected foreign intervention in the CAA matter saying that it strongly believes that no foreign party has any say on issues concerning India’s sovereignty. India maintained that the CAA Act is constitutionally valid and complies with all its constitutional values.
Further, the centre clarified that the CAA act reflects India’s long-standing national commitment in respect to human rights issues, which had come out after the Partition of India. The MEA spokesperson reiterated that India is a democratic country governed by the rule of law and it has the utmost respect and full trust in its independent judiciary and is confident that a sound and legally sustainable stand will be taken by the Supreme Court.
The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by both houses of the Indian Parliament in December 2019. The citizenship amendment law will grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who entered India before December 31, 2014 to escape religious persecution.
The law’s passing triggered mass protests across India over its exclusion of a particular religious community (Muslims). Delhi witnessed massive violence in late February, which resulted in the death of at least 48 people, while over 250 injured. More than 140 pleas have been filed against the law in the Supreme Court. The court had in January given the centre four weeks to respond to the petitions.
Many states passed anti-CAA resolutions with Kerala being the first one, followed by Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Other states including Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have also refused to implement the Citizenship Act.