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SC seeks answers on Citizenship Act

- Centre, Dispur asked to respond

New Delhi, Jan. 11: The Supreme Court today sought responses from the Centre, the Assam government and others on a PIL that sought quashing of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act to prevent entry of illegal migrants into the state and the country.

The petition, filed by Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha and two other organisations, complained that the impugned provision was discriminatory and unconstitutional in that it permitted entry of foreigners into Assam till March 25, 1971.

Senior counsel Ashok Desai, along with counsel Manish Goswami, submitted in the court that this was so when for the rest of the country, the cut-off date prescribed under Article 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949.

A bench of Justice C.K. Prasad and Justice Ibrahim Kalifullah, besides seeking replies from the Centre and Assam, also sought the response of the Election Commission and the Registrar General and Census Commissioner within four weeks.

Goswami told the court that the impugned proviso promoted and protected illegal immigrants and contended that Section 6A had been specifically enacted for protecting the illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam and is, therefore, discriminatory.

Along with praying that Section 6A be struck down as ultra vires, the organisations wanted the National Register of Citizens (NRC) be updated in Assam by taking 1951 as the base year and that necessary directions be issued to the Central and state governments to evolve an effective procedure to deport illegal migrants.

The petitioners told the court that Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, inserted into the principal act vide the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985 (Act No 65 of 1985) with effect from December 7, 1985, “be stuck down as illegal and invalid, being ultra vires”.

The petition added that the provision “is absolutely violative of Article 14 (equality) of the Constitution, not to speak of being violative of Article 5 and 6 (relating to citizenship), as the said amendment, by which Section 6A has been introduced in the Citizenship Act, 1955, has been specially made applicable to the state of Assam. Any person entering any part of the country, not to speak of the specified territory, as mentioned in the Citizenship Act, 1955, cannot be treated as a citizen under the provision of the Constitution of India. But the same person entering Assam on or before March 25, 1971, would acquire the right of citizenship, as provided. Thus, the said impugned provision of the Citizenship Act, being absolutely discriminatory, and being violative of the provisions of the Constitution, is liable to be set aside.”

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