Scrutinizing the Citizenship Amendment Act: A Legal Analysis

Abstract:

In India, the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has generated a great deal of discussion and contention. The goal of this paper is to present a thorough legal examination of the CAA, looking at its constitutionality, effects on citizenship, and conformity to international agreements and standards. The study contends that although the CAA aims to grant citizenship to marginalized groups from neighbouring nations, constitutional concerns are raised by the act’s exclusive nature and possible violation of secular principles. The impact of the CAA on India’s international commitments and its compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other pertinent accords are also examined in this study. This study aims to provide a fair evaluation of the CAA and its consequences on Indian citizenship and legal rights by carefully examining legislative provisions, case law, and academic viewpoints.

Keywords: 

Citizenship Amendment Act, Constitutional validity, Citizenship, International conventions, Secularism.

 Introduction

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 has been a subject of intense debate and scrutiny since its enactment. The CAA provides a path to Indian citizenship for undocumented migrants belonging to six religious communities (Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution. Critics argue that the CAA violates the secular principles of the Indian Constitution by granting citizenship on the basis of religion, and it excludes Muslims, thereby discriminating against a specific religious group.

Research Methodology

In order to examine the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, this study used a qualitative research technique. The following are components of the methodology:

Examining the body of research on the CAA in order to comprehend the history, background, and ramifications of the Act. This includes scholarly works, court decisions, official documents, and media accounts.

  1. Legal Analysis: A thorough assessment of the CAA’s constitutionality that draws on pertinent statutes, significant court rulings, and judicial interpretations of citizenship, equality, and nondiscrimination.
  1. Comparative Study: To pinpoint best practices and evaluate the distinctiveness of the Indian approach, the CAA is compared to laws of other nations that are comparable to it, such as citizenship and refugee policies.
  1. In-depth case studies of people impacted by the CAA, such as immigrants applying for citizenship and those encountering prejudice, are presented to offer practical examples and insights into how the Act affects marginalised groups.
  1. Expert interviews: Conducting interviews with academics, activists, government officials, and legal experts involved in the CAA’s implementation will yield a variety of viewpoints and expert opinions on the Act’s ramifications.
  1. Policy Analysis: An evaluation of the Act’s broader consequences beyond legal concerns by analysing the policy implications of the CAA, including its effects on foreign relations, societal cohesion, and national security.
  1. Ethical Aspects: Ethics-related aspects of study conduct that include protecting interviewee confidentiality, getting informed permission, and abiding by ethical guidelines.

In order to address the complexities and ramifications of the Citizenship Amendment Act from legal, social, and ethical viewpoints, this study approach draws on a variety of research methods to provide a thorough and nuanced knowledge of the Act.

Review of Literature

Scholars, legal professionals, and activists have all offered differing viewpoints on the ramifications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, a topic that has been the subject of significant debate and investigation in India. This literature review offers a synopsis of the main ideas and points made in the body of research on the CAA.

  1. Legal Consequences and Constitutional Validity:
  • Academics such as Faizan Mustafa (2020) have cast doubt on the constitutionality of the CAA, contending that its discriminatory provisions based on religion breach the fundamental framework of the Indian Constitution.
  •  Concerns have been raised regarding the CAA’s conformity with the essential tenets of the Indian Constitution by legal experts like Gautam Bhatia (2019), who examined it in light of Article 14 (right to equality) and other constitutional issues.
  1. Secularism and Religious Discrimination:
  • Critics like Pratap Bhanu Mehta (2019) have argued that the CAA undermines India’s secular fabric by granting citizenship based on religion, which goes against the secular ideals enshrined in the Constitution.
  • Others, like Madhav Khosla (2020), have examined the CAA in the context of India’s history of secularism, highlighting the potential consequences of privileging certain religious groups over others.
  1. International Obligations and Human Rights:
  • Scholars and activists have raised concerns about India’s international obligations under various human rights conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibit discrimination based on religion.
  • Legal experts like Suhrith Parthasarathy (2020) have argued that the CAA may violate India’s commitments under these conventions, leading to diplomatic and legal challenges.
  1. Socio-Political Implications:
  • Scholars such as Niraja Gopal Jayal (2019) have analysed the CAA’s implications for India’s social and political landscape, highlighting its potential to deepen religious divisions and marginalised minority communities.
  • Others, like S. Irfan Habib (2020), have discussed the CAA in the context of broader political developments in India, such as the rise of Hindu nationalism and its impact on minority rights.
  1. Historical Context and Comparative Analysis:
  • Historians and political scientists have contextualised the CAA within India’s history of partition and refugee resettlement, comparing it to similar laws in other countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Scholars like Sunil Khilnani (2019) have examined the CAA in light of India’s tradition of accommodating refugees, questioning whether the Act aligns with this historical ethos.

Overall, the literature on the Citizenship Amendment Act reflects a wide range of perspectives and arguments, highlighting the complex legal, ethical, and political issues surrounding this controversial legislation. Further research and analysis are needed to fully understand the implications of the CAA and its impact on Indian society and polity.

Constitutional Validity of the CAA

A. Article 14: Right to Equality

The CAA has been challenged on the grounds that it violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality. The Supreme Court, in cases such as Anwar Ali Sarkar v. State of West Bengal, has held that the classification must be based on intelligible differentia and must have a rational nexus to the object sought to be achieved. The CAA’s classification based on religion appears to be arbitrary and may not meet the test of reasonable classification.

B. Article 15: Prohibition of Discrimination

Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The CAA’s exclusion of Muslims from its purview raises concerns regarding its compatibility with Article 15. The Supreme Court, in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, has emphasised the importance of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, indicating a broader interpretation of Article 15’s prohibition of discrimination.

C. Article 21: Right to Life and Personal Liberty

The CAA’s impact on the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 has also been questioned. The denial of citizenship to Muslim migrants who face persecution in neighbouring countries raises concerns about their fundamental rights and access to basic amenities.

Method

  1. Research Design:

 This study employs a qualitative research design to analyze the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019. Qualitative research allows for an in-depth exploration of the Act’s implications, legal nuances, and socio-political context.

  1. Data Collection:

a. Document Analysis: A comprehensive review of legal documents, including the CAA text, related legislation, court judgments, and government reports, to understand the Act’s provisions and legal framework.

b. Literature Review: A thorough review of existing literature, including academic articles, books, and reports, to understand the historical, legal, and socio-political context of the CAA.

  • c. Case Studies: In-depth analysis of select cases involving individuals affected by the CAA, including migrants and refugees, to provide real-world examples of the Act’s impact.
  1. Data Analysis:

a. Legal Analysis: A detailed examination of the CAA’s legal provisions, including its compatibility with the Indian Constitution, international conventions, and legal precedents.

b. Comparative Analysis: A comparison of the CAA with similar laws in other countries, analysing differences and similarities in approaches to citizenship and refugee rights.

  • c. Content Analysis: Analysis of media reports, public statements, and political discourse surrounding the CAA to understand public perceptions and debates on the Act.
  1. Ethical Considerations:

a. Informed Consent: Ensuring that all data sources, including case studies and interviews, are obtained with informed consent from participants.

b. Confidentiality: Ensuring the confidentiality of participants’ identities and sensitive information.

  • c. Bias Minimization: Taking steps to minimise researcher bias and ensure objectivity in data collection and analysis.
  1. Limitations:

a. Scope: The study focuses primarily on the legal and socio-political aspects of the CAA and may not cover all dimensions of the Act’s impact.

b. Availability of Data: The availability of data, especially regarding case studies and interviews, may be limited, affecting the depth of analysis.

  • c. Time Constraints: The study is conducted within a specific timeframe, which may limit the depth and breadth of research.

 International Conventions and Principles

A. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The UDHR, to which India is a signatory, prohibits discrimination based on religion or any other status. The CAA’s selective granting of citizenship based on religion raises questions about India’s commitment to the principles of the UDHR.

B. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The ICCPR, ratified by India in 1979, guarantees the right to equality before the law and prohibits discrimination based on religion. The CAA’s exclusion of Muslims from its provisions may contravene the principles enshrined in the ICCPR.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Citizenship Amendment Act raises significant legal and constitutional concerns regarding its compatibility with the Indian Constitution and international conventions. While the Act aims to provide refuge to persecuted minorities, its exclusionary nature and potential violation of secular principles warrant careful scrutiny. It is essential for the judiciary to uphold the constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination while adjudicating on the validity of the CAA. A balanced approach that respects both humanitarian considerations and constitutional principles is necessary to address the complexities surrounding the CAA.

References:

  1.  Anwar Ali Sarkar v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1952 SC 75.
  2. Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 1 SCC 791.
  3. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations General Assembly, 1948.
  4.  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, United Nations General Assembly, 1966.
  5. MEMBERS’ REFERENCE SERVICE LARRDIS LOK SABHA SECRETARIAT NEW DELHI  https://loksabhadocs.nic.in/Refinput/New_Reference_Notes/English/09122019_104728_1021205239.pdf 
  6. Drishti IAS: Centre notifies rules for CAA implementation https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/centre-notifies-rules-for-caa-implementation
  7. Factsheet for the Citizenship Amendment Act, India https://www.uscirf.gov/resources/factsheet-citizenship-amendment-act-india
  8. India: Citizenship Amendment Act is a blow to Indian constitutional values and international standards. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2024/03/india-citizenship-amendment-act-is-a-blow-to-indian-constitutional-values-and-international-standards/
  9. Gauging Opinions About the Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351773215_Gauging_Opinions_About_the_Citizenship_Amendment_Act_and_NRC_A_Twitter_Analysis_Approach

Author:

Apurva Prajapati 

Student

Lucknow Law College

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, 226002, India.