Challenge to Section 6A Citizenship Act| Supreme Court seeks data-based disclosures from MHA

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A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court began hearing the Assam NRC case from September 20 along with two other matters

On Thursday, the Supreme Court has issued a short order while hearing the challenge to Section 6A of Citizenship Act, asking for certain necessary data-based disclosures from the Union Government in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"Where a specific aspects of the data which has been sought by this order implicates the functions of the State Government, the data shall be shared by the Government of Assam with the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, the learned Solicitor General has indicated that a common affidavit shall be filed both on behalf of the Union of India and the State of Assam since both the entities are represented by him", a CJI DY Chandrachud led Constitution bench has ordered.

An affidavit has to be filed by 11 December 2023 on the following aspects:
(i) The number of persons to whom citizenship has been granted under the provisions of Section 6A(2), namely, persons who came into Assam between 1 January 1966 and 25 March 1971;
(ii) How many persons have been detected to be foreigners by an order of the Foreigners Tribunal under the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order 1964 with reference to the above period of 1966 – 1971;
(iii) The estimated inflow of illegal migrants into India, including but not confined to the State of Assam after 25 March 1971;
(iv) In respect of persons who are alleged to have entered India, including the State of Assam, after 25 March 1971:
      (a) The total number of Foreigners Tribunals which have been set up by the Union/State Government(s) and how many are                   functioning at present;
      (b) The total number of cases which have been disposed of;
      (c) The number of cases which are pending as of date;
      (d) The average time taken for the disposal of cases; and
      (e) The number of cases which are pending before the Gauhati High Court arising from orders of the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
(v) The steps which have been taken by the Union Government at the administrative level to deal with illegal immigration into the territory of India including the North-Eastern States, particularly, the State of Assam; and
(vi) The extent of border fencing which has been carried out; the steps which the Union Government intends to take to complete the exercise of border fencing; and the estimated time lines to complete the exercise of border fencing.

A five-judge bench began hearing this case on December 5.

While hearing the submissions on behalf of State of Assam, the bench of Thursday had asked the Central government about the steps it was going to take to make the Bangladesh Border impermeable.

"What are we doing from here onwards to ensure that we have an impermeable border..what are the executive steps that the government of India is taking..because this is a crucial problem independent of 6A..", asked the constitution bench.

The bench also comprising Justices Surya Kant, Sundresh, Pardiwala and Manoj Misra also asked the government about its decision to apply said provision only to the state of Assam.

"We want to hear from you now on the Article 14 aspect..why did you single out ASSAM when WEST BENGAL shares a much larger border with Bangladesh..was there a cogent reason for it..", the CJI asked. 

Supreme Court of India had issued a notification recently stating that it had set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the matter involving the issues of Assam NRC, reservations in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies and immunity for MPs and MLAs from being prosecuted for bribery charges.

Section 6A is a special provision on the citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord and provides that the people who entered India between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, and have been living in Assam, would be allowed to register themselves as citizens of India.

Calling out this provision to be discriminatory, a direction is sought to the concerned authority to update the NRC based on the details incorporated in the NRC prepared in 1951 as opposed to updating the same by taking account of the electoral rolls prior to March 24, 1971.

Case Title: In Re Section 6A of the Citizenship Act