The government must be given leeway to deal with problems in states affected by insurgency and violence, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday while hearing petitions against Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, Live Law reported.
Section 6A was introduced as a special provision under the Act when the Assam Accord was signed between the Centre and leaders of the Assam Movement in 1985. It allows foreigners who came to Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, to seek Indian citizenship.
Indigenous groups in the state have alleged that this provision in the Citizenship Act has legalised the illegal infiltration of migrants from Bangladesh.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioners, argued on Wednesday that the cut-off date of January 1, 1966 operates in a blanket manner, Deccan Herald reported. He contended that the lack of scrutiny of those who seek citizenship under this provision could encourage false claims and encourage people to stay in Assam.
Divan questioned why the provision only applied to Assam, and not other border states such as West Bengal and Tripura, which have also faced challenges due to undocumented immigration from Bangladesh. He contended that rewarding undocumented immigrants in one state was inherently discriminatory.
The Supreme Court, however, said that Section 6A may have been introduced as part of a process to end violent protests that had taken place in Assam in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said that any solution that the government would have found at that time was bound to be an inexact one.
“We must also give the government that latitude,” he observed verbally, according to Live Law. “Even today, we have states in the North East, we may not name them, but there are states affected by insurgency, affected by violence. We have to give the government that leeway to make adjustments necessary to save the nation.”
The court noted that at the time Section 6A was enacted, a large number of people were fleeing Bangladesh on account of violence, and the provision protected them.
On Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the court that around 5.45 lakh individuals had benefited from Section 6A of the Citizenship Act. The official data will be submitted before the court soon, he said.