The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday posted the hearing of pleas challenging the validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act inserted by way of an amendment in 1985 in furtherance of the Assam Accord on December 5.
The hearing on the matter was scheduled on November 7, however, a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra deferred the hearing after the Solicitor General of India and other senior counsels from the petitioners’ side mentioned the matter seeking to adjourn the hearing of the case.
“I am mentioning on my behalf and on behalf of the Attorney General for India. The case coming up tomorrow is the Citizenship Amendment Act. If the case could be deferred a bit as this is the last working week before Diwali and we just came out of one Constitution bench and, therefore, we need some time,” the Solicitor General told the bench.
Following this, the top court posted the matter on December 5.
On the last hearing, the Supreme Court said that the title of the proceedings shall be, "In Re: Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955."
It may be noted that the matter relating to the citizenship in Assam was referred to the five-judge bench on December 17, 2014. The apex court constituted the bench to hear the case on April 19, 2017.
The National Register for Citizens (NRC), a list of Indian citizens containing all necessary information for their identification, was first formulated after the national census of 1951.
The NRC in Assam is meant to identify the illegal immigrants in the state who migrated from Bangladesh after the deadline of March 25, 1971.
The Centre and the representatives of the Assam Movement had negotiated and drafted the Assam Accord and created categories of immigrants in 1985.
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 based on 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 along with others had 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.