NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre's response on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the amended passport rules and the foreigners order of 2015, which regularised the entry and stay of illegal immigrants in India allegedly on the basis of religion.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notices to the Centre, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Tripura government and sought their responses on a plea filed by the Tripura People's Front (TPF), challenging the validity of the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015 and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015.
The petition claimed that the new rules and order had introduced religion as a new principle in the citizenship law, describing it as "communally-motivated humanitarianism".
"The sub-ordinate legislations impugned are, however, unprecedented in the sense that never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as the ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens.
They have introduced religion as a new principle in the citizenship law and can be conveniently branded as 'communally motivated humanitarianism'," the plea said.
The illegal immigrants, who were to be granted the benefit of these legislations, had to qualify for citizenship only on the basis of religion and this requirement went against the principles of secularism, one of the basic tenets of the Constitution, it added.
The plea urged the court to strike down the Passport Rules, notified on September 7, 2015, and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, which came into effect on September 7, 2015, by declaring those as "discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal".
It said the legislations "threaten the foundation of India's plural polity, where every citizen, regardless of his religious identity, is equal to every other in his enjoyment of the rights the Constitution confers on him".
The legislations defeated the purpose and opened the floodgates to more illegal immigration and consequently, increased claims on diminishing resources, the plea said.
The rules and the order regularised the entry and stay in India of the illegal immigrants belonging to certain religions like Hindus, Jains and Christians.