A petition filed in the Supreme Court has sought the quashing of central government notifications that allow the naturalisation of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, The Hindu reported on Monday.
The petition, filed by an organisation called the Nagarikatwa Aain Songsudhan Birodhi Mancha and others, said these notifications – the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, The Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015, and SO 4132 (E) – would give impetus to the “uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam”.
“The sub-ordinate legislation impugned herein are however, unprecedented, in the sense that never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as the ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens,” the petition reads. “It has introduced religion as a new principle into the citizenship law and can be conveniently branded as ‘communally motivated humanitarianism’.”
The petitioners said while religious persecution might be a reasonable principle for differentiation, it cannot be used to dilute the republican and secular foundations of citizenship in the country. These notifications, they added, go against constitutional morality.
The petitioners have urged the court to direct the Centre to constitute a National Immigration Commission or any other appropriate body to frame a national immigration policy and a national refugee policy, Bar and Bench reported.
They also urged the court to order the government to take effective steps to conserve and preseve the distinct culture, heritage and traditions of the indigenous people of Assam as per the Assam Accord. Uncontrolled immigration of undocumented migrants has caused demographic changes in Assam and turned the indigenous people of the state into minorities in their own land, The Assam Tribune quoted the petitioners as saying.
According to the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, people from minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution do not need to have a passport if they entered the country on or before December 31, 2014. These minorities include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
The Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015, exempts the above set of people from provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946.