Michelle Bachelet will file application seeking to intervene as third party in hearings of anti-CAA pleas
UNHCHR seeks to assist SC to examine the compatibility of CAA with India’s Constitution
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet Jeria is set to file an intervention application in the Supreme Court over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, or CAA.
The UN official seeks to intervene as amicus curiae (third party) in the petitions against CAA pending before the top court.
“Our permanent mission in Geneva was informed yesterday (Monday) evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that her office had filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
A UNHCHR spokesman in Geneva, however, said Jeria had not yet filed the application.
The CAA, passed by Parliament in December, seeks to fast track citizenship for persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It, however, leaves out the possibility of India giving citizenship to persecuted Muslims from these countries. Fears that this Act, along with plans to create a National Register of Citizens to weed out illegal immigrants and establish due Indian citizenship, could strip Indian Muslims of their citizenship has spurred protests across the country. Prime Minister Modi has said that there would be no repeal of the Act.
The UNHCHR seeks to assist the apex court to examine the compatibility of CAA with India’s Constitution, in light of India’s obligations under international human rights laws. The interpretation of India’s international human rights obligations would include the right to equality before the law and the prohibition of discrimination among refugees and migrants, the UN body said. It also talks about CAA’s impact on the protection of human rights of migrants, including refugees in India.
The UNHCHR said the intervention application should not be seen as an endorsement or associated with the allegation of any party to these proceedings, including those challenging the constitutionality of CAA before the Supreme Court. It also said the application is not restricted to issues raised by the petitions in the court on the CAA.
The UNHCHR application asks whether excluding people on the basis of their religion is “objective and reasonable".
It says the Indian government pointed out that Islam is the state religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, and as such people of Muslim faith are protected in these countries. Those whose citizenship India seeks to fast-track through the CAA are religious minorities in these countries. However, the research done by UNHCHR states that a number of other religious groups, such as Ahmadi, Hazara and Shia Muslims, are among Muslim minorities in these countries. Hence, they should also be given protection under the provisions of the CAA.
Kumar said, “The Citizenship (Amendment) Act is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty."
“We are clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of our constitutional values. It is reflective of our long standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India," he said.
The Supreme Court would first have to decide whether the UNHCHR has the right to petition the court on this matter.
The European Parliament is also set to debate a resolution that criticises the CAA and the communication clampdown in Kashmir. Together, the developments may cast a shadow over Modi’s visit to Brussels slated for 13 March for the India-European Union Summit.
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