'What steps have been taken to curb illegal migration into India?': SC poser to Centre

The top court's five-judge Constitution Bench heard for the third consecutive day the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
FILE - Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. (Photo | PTI)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre what steps have been taken so far to curb illegal migration into India.

The top court's five-judge Constitution Bench heard for the third consecutive day the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

"We would like to know what is the Centre doing, so far, to safeguard the border and how far is the border fenced? These are very pertinent questions in the case. Let the home secretary also apply his mind to this aspect," a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr DY Chandrachud, said. The court posted the matter for further hearing till December 12.

The court also sought a detailed report from the Centre on how many people came to India from Bangladesh between 1967-1971 and what actions have been taken to create a safer border.

The top court asked the Centre why migrants from Bangladesh weren't given citizenship in West Bengal. "Why allow this only for Assam? Why did you single out Assam when West Bengal shares a relatively larger border with Bangladesh," it asked.

To this, the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, the senior law officer of the Union government, replied that the Centre would like to file an affidavit detailing all these figures and data.

The apex court asked the SG to file an affidavit on how many foreigners were detected under orders of the foreigners' tribunals and what are the numbers of illegal migrants into India including but not confined to Assam.

It also asked the SG to apprise it with regard to those persons, who are alleged to have entered India after 1971, and the total number of foreigners' tribunals set up by the central government.

The SG also needs to file an affidavit on many other issues, including what are the total number of cases disposed of and number of cases pending before the Guwahati High Court on such issues, the top court said.

"A common affidavit shall be filed by the SG on all these aspects by the central government and the state of Assam," the SC said.

During the course of the hearing, the SG said this amendment has nothing to do with other amendments of the citizenship act and is a very limited issue.

He admitted that the concerns pointed out by the petitioners including the influx of illegal immigrants taking away their jobs and other benefits are true.

Mehta, however, opposed the petitioners demand and direction for declaring section 6A as unconstitutional. "It (quashing section 6A) is not the solution," the SG said.

Section 6A is confined to a particular period of time and declaring it to be unconstitutional will not help in achieving the solution, he said. This section was very well meant only for a very specific place and it is indeed only for Assam, he further argued.

The five-judge Constitution bench hearing the batch of petitions was headed by CJI Dr DY Chandrachud and four other judges Justices Surya Kant, M M Sundresh, J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The arguments will continue on Friday before the same bench of the apex court.

The Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a Guwahati based civil society organisation along with other petitioners, had moved the apex court and challenged Section 6A way back in 2012.

Section 6A of the Citizenship 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.

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