The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, which has triggered extreme protests by a section of Indian Muslims and the Opposition parties including Congress and Communist parties.
It’s opponents argue that it violates the basic structure of Indian Constitution, which is secular. According to them, the constitution can’t discriminate between religion and therefore excluding Muslims of neighbouring countries is a violation to it.
The CAA is about granting Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities from Islamic countries in the Indian subcontinent viz. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. It relaxes the minimum stay period for granting citizenship from 11 years to 5 years, for those minorities (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian) who entered India before 31st December 2014.
The primary text of CAA reads as follows:
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”
It is noteworthy that CAA doesn’t affect any Indian citizen (Hindus or Muslims), under any circumstances.
However, this is not the first time, where laws have been framed in violation to the secular fabric of Indian constitution.
In 2010, the United Progressive Alliance Govt (led by Congress Party), issued a gazette notification, which allowed exclusive privilege to Pakistani Muslims, who have been living in India, with or without valid visa. This was something very similar to the CAA, where Pakistani nationals of only one religion were granted the concession, but those of other religions were excluded. Read the following paragraph from the notification.
Following class of persons have been exempted from the provisions of rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950 by Notification S.O. No.1115 (E) dated 15.5.2010 issued by the Central Government:-Section 3 of the LTV notification issued by MHA in 2010.
“Male Muslim community member being originally Indian citizen went to Pakistan after partition leaving behind family in India and returned back to India and settled in the State of Kerala on a valid passport issued by the Government of Pakistan which has either been expired or lost and –
(i) such person has gone to Pakistan between the period of 15th August 1947 and 31st December 1965; (ii) such person should not have married while in Pakistan; (iii) such person should not have acquired any immovable property in Pakistan; (iv) such person, while going to Pakistan,
should have left behind family members who are Indian citizens; (v) such person should have no intention whatsoever of returning to Pakistan; (vi) such person should have any adverse report from the police and security agencies. State Governments / UT Administrations may consider cases for extension of the LTV of such persons covered under the Notification S.O. no. 1115(E) dated 15.5.2010 under their delegated powers without insisting on validity of passports.
Anyone can find it under the Section 3 of the notification on the website of Ministry of Home affairs.
Additionally, there are several provisions under Indian Constitution and Laws, which favor a particular religious groups.
The most common of these is the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, which is the backbone of Muslim personal law board. It vests the judicial powers into the hands of clerics; something the clerics of other religion are not empowered with. It provides validity to thousands of Sharia courts being operated by Muslim Clerics across the country.
The point to note is that the above act is in sharp contrast to Article 44 of Indian Constitution., which emphasises a uniform civil code for the citizens of India.
Uniform civil code for the citizens The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of IndiaArticle 44 of Indian Constitution
What we can understand from all this is that if the LTV notification for Pakistani Muslims and the Shariat Act are valid, then the CAA is equally valid. If you oppose CAA, then you should first oppose these two. Any logic or argument which justifies Shariat Act or the LTV notification can also be applied to justify CAA.