The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre how many people obtained citizenship of the country availing Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, which was introduced in the statute following the signing of Assam accord.
“How many people took citizenship in pursuance of this provision when Section 6A was in practical operation-the practical operation came to an end on July 16, 2013?,” CJI D Y Chandrachud presiding over a five-judge Constitution bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who responded that he will get the details and appraise the court.
Hearing petitions challenging the validity of the provision which permits those who came to Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971, from Bangladesh to apply for Indian citizenship, the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna, M M Sundresh, J B Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, said the court will “also have to look at it from a broader perspective, that there was a war in Bangladesh”.
Pointing to the history of Section 6A, the CJI said “if the Parliament were to merely grant amnesty to a group of illegal immigrants, that would be a different situation. But we can’t deny that Section 6A was enacted at a point which is deeply connected to our history, namely India had a very vital role in the creation of Bangladesh because we were part of the war as much as Bangladesh was. Parliament seems to have proceeded on the basis that the immigration which took place cannot be regarded purely on the footing of an illegal immigration but it was something which was really a humanitarian aspect of the atrocities committed on the population of the then East Pakistan which is why India intervened…Therefore this was not just looked at by Parliament as illegal immigration but something that is deeply interwoven in our own history…”
Responding to the CJI’s statement, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan appearing for the petitioner said “this falls entirely in my favour. Because when we examine the cut-off dates — as far as people who have come after the atrocities — this extends no protection to them at all”.
He added that “there are overarching principles of democracy, federalism, and the rule of law being part of the basic structure” involved in the matter “and Section 6A, in the manner in which it operates, might undermine these core values”.