BC Joshi, the Director in the Ministry of Home Affairs filed a counter-affidavit on behalf of the Centre in the SC on the pleas challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. He clarified that this was a preliminary affidavit and the Centre was at liberty to file a detailed reply subsequently. First, he listed the chronology of the developments pertaining to the issue of citizenship. Thereafter, he contended that the Parliament had the jurisdiction to pass legislation on citizenship.
Describing CAA as a “benign piece of legislation”, Joshi opined that the specific amendment was enacted by the Parliament to offer amnesty to minorities in specific countries with a clear cut-off date. Moreover, he admitted that the aforesaid legislation did not provide answers to purported persecution taking place across the world. Highlighting the Statements of Objects and Reasons appended to the bill, he clarified that the CAA neither impinged any right that existed prior to the enactment of the amendment nor did it affect the rights of Indian citizens. The Centre’s counter-affidavit stated that people living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can become Indian citizens irrespective of their religion.
The Director in MHA claimed that the judicial review of the apex court would be very restrictive. He also reckoned that the matters concerning the sovereign power of Parliament could not be questioned via Public Interest Litigations. Responding to the criticism that groups such as Ahmadiyya are also persecuted, he stressed that the Parliament was competent to earmark the religious communities in the three countries without adhering to the minority status given to any community by those countries. Joshi also argued that the intra-religious persecution due to the non-recognition of any sect could not be compared to the persecution of religious minorities. After this, he cited various replies in Parliament and note verbales issued to Pakistan to buttress the point that India has consistently protested against the persecution of minorities. Furthermore, he said that the non-inclusion of a particular country in the legislation cannot be the subject-matter of the judicial review.
Additionally, the affidavit dismissed the contention that the CAA ran afoul of Article 15 of the Constitution, citing that the classification was based on intelligible differentia. It maintained that the legislation was not against any community and secularism, pointing out the fact that it did not grant an exemption to Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka and Tibetan Buddhists from China. It has also been argued by the Centre that the identification of illegal migrants is a sovereign right of the government and was distinct from the CAA. Joshi also remarked that Indian citizens could not claim rights under Article 15 and 19 on behalf of illegal immigrants and foreigners. Finally, Joshi urged the Supreme Court to dismiss these pleas as the CAA did not violate any fundamental rights of the Constitution.