NEW DELHI: A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr DY Chandrachud on Tuesday commenced hearing on 17 petitions to examine the constitutional validity of section 6A of the Citizenship Act relating to illegal immigrants in Assam.
Besides the CJI, the four other judges who were part of the bench are Justices Surya Kant, M M Sundresh, J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a Guwahati based NGO along with other petitioners, had challenged Section 6A in SC in 2012. Senior lawyer Shyam Divan, appearing for All Assam Ahom Association and other petitioners, argued that Section 6A is discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal as it provides for different cut-off dates for regularising illegal migrant who entered Assam and the rest of India.
Divan argued that Section 6A violates the basic fabric of the Constitution and the values of secularism, fraternity and brotherhood contained in the Preamble. Divan requested the bench to direct the Centre to frame a court-monitored policy for all states and UTs for the settlement and rehabilitation of all the persons who came to Assam.
The SC asked Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, representing the govt, to inform it whether Section 6A was still in operation and the number of people who have been declared as “foreigners” till 2013, and fixed the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.
During the hearing today, the apex court said that Section 6A was enacted as a humanitarian measure in the wake of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and is deeply interwoven in our history. “We can’t deny that Section 6A was enacted at a point which is deeply connected to our history. Section 6A was enacted a time when there was a different history, and India had an important role to play in Bangladesh Liberation War, and we were a part of the war as much as Bangladesh.
This was for the atrocities which were being committed on the population of East Bengal then,” the CJI observed Section 6A of the Citizenship Act was introduced to give effect to 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.
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