This section's purposes one of the fundamental provisions of the Assam Accord, which establishes who is a foreign national in the state and forms the basis of the final National Register of Citizens in Assam, which was released in 2019, and is being challenged before the Supreme Court. When hearing petitions challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, a Supreme Court Constitution Bench stated on Tuesday that it would first consider whether the provision is constitutionally legitimate before moving on to other points made in the pleas.
Section-6A: What Is It?
The Assam Accord, which was signed in 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi administration and the All Assam Students' Union at the conclusion of a six-year agitation against the influx of migrants from Bangladesh into the state, is largely the source of questions regarding citizenship, "illegal immigrants," and rights of "indigenous Assamese" citizens in Assam.
One of the major provisions of the Accord—which decides who is a foreign national in the state—as well as the foundation of the final National Register of Citizens in Assam, which was published in 2019, are under attack in the petition before the Supreme Court's Constitutional bench. The Assam Accord's Clause 5 specifies January 1, 1966, as the base cut-off date for the identification and removal of "foreigners," but it also includes provisions for the regularization of people who entered the state after that date and up to March 24, 1971.
After extensive discussions among parties, a consensus over the 1971 cut-off was reached. To account for this, Section 6 A of the Citizenship Act was included as an amendment. In essence, Section 6 A establishes March 24, 1971 as the deadline for admission into the state, anyone entering the state after that date would be regarded as "illegal immigrants."
It stipulates that although persons who arrived in Assam from Bangladesh on or after January 1, 1966 but before March 25, 1971 will be considered "foreigners," they must register in accordance with guidelines established by the Central Government. They would enjoy the same rights and obligations as Indian citizens for a period of ten years following the day they were identified as foreigners, with the exception of being listed on the electoral rolls for any assembly or parliamentary seat. They were to be considered citizens at the conclusion of the ten-year period.
With this cut-off date of 24 March 1971, the final Assamese National Register of Citizens was done and published in 2019.
About The Plea:
The argument made before the constitutional bench, requests that 1951 rather than 1971 be set as the cutoff date for inclusion in the National Register of Citizens while disputing the constitutional legitimacy of Section 6 A. The Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (ASM), a group that describes itself as a champion for the rights of Assamese "indigenous" communities, is the main petitioner. Their main claim is that Section 6 A is "discriminatory, arbitrary, and illegal" and infringes on the rights of "indigenous" Assamese people by setting a different cut-off date for Indian citizenship in Assam than in the rest of India, which is July 1948.
They claim in their petition, which was submitted in 2012 after being filed more than ten years prior, that "the application of Section 6-A to the State of Assam alone has led to a perceptible change in the demographic pattern of the State and has reduced the people of Assam to a minority in their own State. The same is harmful to the State's economic and political health and works as a strong force against the people's ability to maintain their culture, exercise political influence, and find work.
The Working President of the ASM, Matiur Rahman, stated that the organization is considering an order made by a two-judge bench headed by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi as a possibility that the NRC can be updated in accordance with the terms requested to them, even though the final NRC in Assam was released in 2019. The order, which was issued on December 13, 2019, stipulates that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be updated "subject to such as may be passed by the Constitution Bench in Writ Petition (C) No.562 of 2012 and Writ Petition (C) No.311 of 2015."
"The AASU has gone against the indigenous tribes of Assam by favoring the 70-80 lakh Hindu and Muslim Bengalis and Nepalis who fled from East Pakistan over the course of those years and illegally occupied the lands of indigenous tribes and government lands," claimed Rahman. "By settling on the date of Bangladesh's independence in violation of the Constitution, they have gone against the constitutional rights of the people of Bangladesh."
What Issues Are Raised By Section 6A?
In a judgement issued on December 17, 2014, a two-judge panel made up of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton had set 13 questions on Section 6 A for consideration by a constitutional court while considering the ASM's 2012 petition.
(i)Considering in particular the phraseology of Article 4 (2) read with Article 368 (1), does Section 6A of the Citizenship Act violate Articles 10 and 11 of the Indian Constitution by prescribing a cut-off date that differs from the one set forth in Article 6 without doing so in a "variation" of Article 6 itself?
(ii) Does Section 6A violate Articles 325 and 326 of the Indian Constitution because it has curtailed Assamese citizens' political rights?
(iii) What does Article 29(1)'s guarantee of fundamental rights cover? Is the basic right unalienable in its terms? What does the word "culture" and the word "conserve" specifically mean? Is Section 6A in violation of Article 29(1)?
(iv) Does Section 6A infringe on Article 355? What is the Constitution's Article 355 actually meant to mean? What would be considered "foreign hostility" and/or "internal unrest" if a State of India experienced a wave of unauthorized immigration? The term "State" used in this Article refers to a territorial area, or does it also relate to the inhabitants of the State, including their culture and identity?
(v) Whether Section 6A breaches Article 14 since it discriminates against Assam and other Border States (which form a different class). Additionally, whether there is no justification for a different cut-off date for regularizing illegal immigrants who enter Assam than the rest of the nation, and
(vi) Whether Section 6A breaches Article 21 given that the large influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has negatively impacted the lives and personal liberties of Assamese nationals.
(vii) Is it possible to consider delay while determining how to respond to a petition submitted in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution?
(viii) Is there any relief that may be granted in the petitions brought up in the current cases after a significant number of immigrants from East Pakistan had benefited from rights as citizens of India for more than 40 years?
(ix) Does Section 6A's provision allowing citizens of East Pakistan who have purportedly not lost their citizenship to be deemed Indian citizens, conferring dual citizenship on them, contradict the fundamental tenets of the Constitution and the Citizenship Act?
(x) Does Section 6A's allowance for certain migrants to become deemed Indian citizens without Bangladeshi reciprocity or taking the oath of allegiance to the Indian Constitution violate the fundamental principles of Section 5 (1) provision and Section 5 (2) of the Citizenship Act (as it existed in 1985)?
(xi) Is the general Foreigners Act and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 made thereunder, or the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950—a particular statute qua immigrants entering Assam—the only one that can apply to migrants from East Pakistan/Bangladesh?
(xii) Does Section 6A contradict the Rule of Law because it gives in to political expediency rather than lawful government?
(xiii) Does Section 6A violate fundamental rights by providing presumed citizenship to certain people arbitrarily because there is no process in place to identify whether people have lived in Assam regularly from the dates of their entry?