The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is a discriminatory law as it does not extend to Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has told the Supreme Court, Live Law reported on Wednesday.
The party’s organising secretary RS Bharathi, in an affidavit, urged the court to declare the Act as being violative of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.
The Act provides citizenship to refugees from six non-Muslim religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.
The DMK is among over 200 individuals and organisations that have filed petitions in the Supreme Court opposing the law. The petitioners have alleged that it promotes religion-based discrimination and violates the principle of equality before law.
The DMK said that Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are forced to stay in camps where they often face exploitation. “The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities have left these refugees handicapped and destroyed,” it said.
The party said that the law introduces religion as a completely new basis to decide on citizenship, which destroys the basic fabric of secularism, Bar and Bench reported.
According to the affidavit, the Act is arbitrary as it only relates to three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – and six religious communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. “There is no reason as to why Muslims were altogether excluded even in the countries wherein they have suffered persecution,” it said.
On October 30, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act does not affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of Indian citizens. It claimed that the Act is a “focused law” that seeks to provide a relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from specified countries with a clear cut-off date.
However, the DMK leader said that the central government’s affidavit did not make any mention of the condition of Tamil refugees.
“I humbly submit that the step motherly behaviour of respondent number one [Centre] towards Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future,” Bharathi said.
The Centre has claimed that the citizenship law only seeks to provide relief to members of persecuted communities living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
The Act is yet to be implemented as its rules have not been framed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In May, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the law will be enforced as soon as the pandemic ends.
However, critics fear that the Citizenship Amendment Act, clubbed with the National Register of Citizens, will be misused to target Muslims in the country.
The National Register of Citizens is meant to be a list of legal Indian citizens. It was compiled after two draft versions and excluded 19 lakh applicants when it was published in Assam in August 2019.