The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted the pleas for hearing on January 10, 2023, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act inserted by way of an amendment in 1985 in furtherance of the Assam Accord.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justices MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli and PS Narasimha asked the counsels in the case to segregate the cases into distinct categories.
At the outset, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the bench that the parties have decided to sit together and identify the issues which were to be segregated and heard in the case.
On December 17, 2014, a matter relating to citizenship in Assam was referred to the five-judge Constitution bench. On April 19, 2017, the apex court constituted the bench to hear the case.
The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a list of Indian citizens containing all the necessary information for their identification, was first formulated following the 1951 national census.
The Assam NRC is meant to identify illegal immigrants in the State who migrated from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
In 1985, the Indian government and the representatives of the Assam Movement negotiated and drafted the Assam Accord and created categories of immigrants.
The NRC exercise in Assam was carried out under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the rules framed in the Assam Accord 1985.
Section 6A of the Act was introduced to give effect to the Assam Accord. It provides the framework to recognise migrants in Assam as Indian citizens or to expel them on the basis of the date of their migration.
The provision provides that those who have come to Assam on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971, from specified territories, including Bangladesh in 1985, and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section 18 for citizenship. Therefore, the provision fixes March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.
In 2013, the apex court directed the State of Assam to update the NRC.
On July 30, 2018, the final draft of the Assam NRC was released and 40.07 lakh applicants out of 3.29 crores were excluded from the NRC list, creating uncertainty about their citizenship status.
Later, the apex court said that this was merely a draft NRC and no action could be taken based on it. On August 31, 2019, the final NRC list was published and 19 lakh persons were excluded.
Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a Guwahati-based civil society organisation and others challenged Section 6A way back in 2012 while arguing that Section 6A is discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal so far as it provides for different cut-off dates for regularising illegal migrants who entered Assam and the rest of India.
The Bangladesh liberation war which led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan witnessed a massive influx of migrants to India. Even prior to when Bangladesh gained independence from East Pakistan in 1971, migration had started to India.
On March 19, 1972, Bangladesh and India entered into a treaty for friendship, cooperation and peace. (ANI)