Several pleas filed in SC challenging Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019

Several petitions, including those by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, were filed in the Supreme Court on Friday challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.

According to the amended Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

President Ram Nath Kovind had given assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Thursday night, turning it into an Act.

Several other petitioners including All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.

Moitra’s plea was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and her counsel urged that the petition be heard during the day or on December 16.

“Today? Nothing today. You go to the mentioning officer,” the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, told Moitra’s counsel.

While Ramesh has said that the Act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats “equals as unequal”, Moitra has said that “patent unconstitutionality” of the law “destroys the plural, multi-religious and egalitarian basis of India’s secular fabric, and replaces it with a constitutionally unsustainable religion centric substance.”

In his petition, Ramesh said that substantial questions of law, including whether religion can be a factor to either acquire or deny citizenship in India, arises for consideration of the court as it is a “patently unconstitutional” amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.

“The impugned Act creates two classifications, viz, classification on basis of religion and the classification on the basis of geography and both the classifications are completely unreasonable and share no rational nexus to the object of the impugned Act i.e., to provide shelter, safety and citizenship to communities who in their native country are facing persecution on grounds of religion,” the plea said.

Moitra has said in her plea that the Act is a “divisive, exclusionary and discriminatory piece of legislation that is bound to rend the secular fabric irreparably, and allow illegal migrants of particular religions to acquire citizenship immediately upon its passage.”

She has also sought top court’s direction to suspend the operation of the Act and all actions under it pending disposal of her plea.

In their plea, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, have said that the Act is “discriminatory and manifestly arbitrary” and violates the fundamental rights, including that of equality before law, and basic structure of the Constitution.

“The amendment is manifestly arbitrary inasmuch it is capricious, irrational, not transparent, biased with favouritsm or nepotism, without adequate determining principle, and contrary to the public interest,” the plea, filed through advocate Fauzia Shakil, said.

In his petition, Ramesh has sought a declaration that the Act is “ultra vires” the Assam Accord of 1985, the Constitution and violates the international law and obligation approved and agreed by India under international covenants.

The plea by Ramesh, which is settled by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Devadatt Kamat, has sought quashing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as “unconstitutional, null and void and ultra vires” Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

“The impugned Act suffers from manifest arbitrariness, as it arbitrarily groups only 3 countries along with only 6 religions and expressly excludes specific religions and regions from availing the benefits of the Citizenship Amendments,” it said.

Similarly, one of the pleas said the Act “purportedly seeks to provide benefits to victims of persecution. However, the impugned Act goes on to create a division between the persecuted, on the basis of faith and nationality of origin.”

On Thursday, another plea challenging the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was filed by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) which said that it violates fundamental right to equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion.

IUML has said in its plea that the bill was against the basic structure of Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as it extends benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

President’s nod to increase number of Supreme Court judges

President Ram Nath Kovind has signed into law a Bill which seeks to increase the sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court from 30 to 33 besides the Chief Justice of India.

The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament earlier this week.

With no vacancy, the present strength of the apex court is 31, including the chief justice of India.

After the law comes into force, the sanctioned strength of SC will be 33, besides the CJI.

The move to increase the strength of judges by 3 or 10 per cent comes against the backdrop of rising cases in the top court which stand at nearly 60,000.

The decision also comes days after Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase the number of judges in the top court.

According to a written reply by the Law Ministry to a Rajya Sabha question on July 11,59,331 cases are pending in the top court.

Due to paucity of judges, the required number of constitution benches to decide important cases involving questions of law were not being formed, the CJI said.

“You would recall that way back in 1988, about three decades ago, the judge strength of the SC was increased from 18 to 26, and then again after two decades in 2009, it was increased to 31, including the CJI, to expedite disposal of cases to keep pace with the rate of institution,” he wrote.

Once the amended law comes into force, the Supreme Court collegium will recommend three names to the government for appointment as SC judges, a government functionary said.

Supreme Court seeks response from Centre on fresh plea against 10 pc quota to general category poor

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a fresh plea challenging its decision to grant 10 per cent reservation in jobs and admissions to general category poor candidates.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also made it clear that there shall be no stay on the decision to grant quota to general category poor candidates.

The apex court, which had earlier issued notice to the Centre on similar petitions, Friday ordered tagging of the fresh plea of Tehseen Poonawalla with pending ones.

Petitions have been filed by parties, including ‘Janhit Abhiyan’ and NGO ‘Youth For Equality’, challenging the Centre’s decision.

The petition, filed by Youth For Equality through its president Kaushal Kant Mishra, has sought the quashing of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019, saying that the economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation and that the bill violates basic feature of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general category and the overall 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.

In the present form, the upper limit of quota goes up to 60 per cent which violated the decisions of the apex court.

Referring to the nine-judge bench decision of the apex court in the landmark 1992 Indira Sawhney case, the petition said the latest amendment completely violated the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation.

It also said that the amendments fail to consider that Articles 14 and 16 form the basic feature of equality, and that they have been violated with the doing away of the restraints that were imposed on the reservation policy, i.e. the 50 per cent ceiling limit and the exclusion of economic status as a sole criterion.

Later in a press release, the organisation said in principle it’s a welcome step and that deprivation and not caste has been made the basis of protective discrimination.

“However, the limit of total reservation is increased to 60 per cent. This will open a pandora’s box. Now more and more political parties/caste groups will claim for increased percentage of reservations, both at the Centre and state level,” it said.

The fresh filed by businessman Poonawalla has sought quashing of the bill, saying that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”.

The top court had earlier refused to stay the Modi government’s decision to grant the reservation but agreed to examine the validity of the constitutional amendment which paved the way for this quota.

In poll year, the Modi government has come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to the poor among general category candidates.

The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cleared the bill on January 8 and 9 respectively, and has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Supreme Court agrees to examine Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent quota to poor in general category

The Supreme Court Friday decided to examine the Centre’s decision to grant 10 percent reservation in jobs and education to poor candidates belonging to general category.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to the central government on various petitions challenging the validity of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019, which paved the way for grant of quota to poor belonging to general category.

“We are examining the matter and hence issuing notice returnable within four weeks,” the bench said.

The bench, however, did not stay the operation of the Centre’s decision granting quota to the poor in the general category.

In poll year, the Narendra Modi government had come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to the poor among general category candidates.

The petitions were filed by parties including organisations like Janhit Abhiyan and Youth For Equality challenging the Centre’s decision.

The petition, filed by Youth For Equality, has sought the quashing of the bill saying that the economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.

The plea has said the bill violates basic feature of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general categories and the 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.

A similar plea has been filed by businessman Tehseen Poonawalla seeking to quash the bill, saying that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”.

The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill on January 8 and 9 respectively and it has also been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Supreme Court refuses to stay 10 pc quota for general category poor.

The Supreme Court Friday refused to stay the Modi government’s decision to grant 10 per cent reservation to economically poor in the general category but agreed to examine the validity of the constitutional amendment which paved the way for this quota.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued a notice to the government on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Constitution (103 Amendment) Act, 2019 which allows grant of quota in jobs and education to the poor in the general category.

“We will examine the matter. Issue notice,” the bench said, making it clear that there would be no stay on the decision.

The top court asked the Centre to file its response within three weeks.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the pleas did not deserve a hearing and vehemently argued that there should not be any stay on the Centre’s decision.

The bench said it has merely issued the notice.

When some lawyers started arguing simultaneously, the bench said, “Don’t come to this court to create trouble. Call the next case”.

The bench was hearing petitions filed by parties including organisations like ‘Janhit Abhiyan’ and NGO ‘Youth For Equality’ challenging the Centre’s decision.

In poll year, the Modi government has come out with the constitutional amendment bill giving quota benefits to the poor among general category candidates.

The petition, filed by Youth For Equality through its president Kaushal Kant Mishra, has sought the quashing of the bill saying that the economic criterion cannot be the sole basis for reservation.

The plea has said the bill violates basic feature of the Constitution as reservation on economic grounds cannot be limited to the general categories and the overall 50 per cent ceiling limit cannot be breached.

In the present form, the upper limit of quota goes up to 60 per cent which violated the decisions of the apex court.

Referring to the nine-judge bench decision of the apex court in the landmark 1992 Indira Sawhney case, the petition said the latest amendment completely violated the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation.

“Such an amendment is hence vulnerable and ought to be struck down as it merely negates a binding judgement,” it said.

It also said that the amendments fail to consider that Articles 14 and 16 form the basic feature of equality, and that they have been violated with the doing away of the restraints that were imposed on the reservation policy, i.e. the 50 per cent ceiling limit and the exclusion of economic status as a sole criterion.

“The Constitution amendment completely violates the Constitutional norm that economic criterion cannot be the only basis of reservation as has been laid down by the 9 judges in Indira Sawhney, without removing the basis of the judgement,” the petition said.

“By way of the present amendments, the exclusion of the OBCs and the SCs/STs from the scope of the economic reservation essentially implies that only those who are poor from the general categories would avail the benefits of the quotas.

“Taken together with the fact that the high creamy layer limit of Rs 8 lakh per annum ensures that the elite in the OBCs and SCs/STs capture the reservation benefits repeatedly, the poor sections of these categories remain completely deprived. This is an overwhelming violation of the basic feature of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution and elsewhere,” it said.

Later in a press release, the organisation said in principle it’s a welcome step and that deprivation and not the caste has been made the basis of protective discrimination.

“However, the limit of total reservation is increased to 60 per cent. This will open a pandora’s box. Now more and more political parties/caste groups will claim for increased percentage of reservations, both at the Centre and state level,” it said.

A similar plea has been filed by businessman Tehseen Poonawalla seeking to quash the bill, saying that backwardness for the purpose of reservation cannot be defined by “economic status alone”.

The plea of Poonawala, however, was not listed for hearing today.

The quota will be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation to SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill on January 8 and 9 respectively, and has been signed by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Will work out parameters for urgent mentioning and hearing of cases: CJI

New Delhi:Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi Wednesday said “parameters” will be worked out for urgent mentioning and hearing of cases.

Justice Gogoi, who took oath as the 46th CJI, said “no urgent mentioning of cases will be allowed” till certain parameters are fixed for it.

“We will work out the parameters then we will see as to how mentioning will be done,” he said.

“If somebody is going to be hanged tomorrow, then we can understand (urgency)”, the CJI said. 

President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath to the 63-year-old Justice Gogoi at a brief ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Darbar Hall. Justice Gogoi succeeds Justice Dipak Misra 

Justice Gogoi will have a tenure of a little over 13 months and would retire on November 17, 2019.

DCM Chief Swati Maliwal ends hunger strike; terms ordinance a ‘historic’ victory

DCW chief Swati Maliwal ended her hunger strike after President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated an ordinance to give stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years.

She was on the hunger strike for the last 10 days at Rajghat here.

As she congratulated the people for the ordinance, Maliwal noted that very few protests had achieved so much in such less time, and termed the government’s decision a “historic victory” for independent India.

According to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, new fast-track courts will be set up to deal with rape cases and special forensic kits will be provided to all police stations and hospitals in the long run.

The ordinance stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 12 and 16 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said while quoting the ordinance.

The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment, they said.

In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life, the officials said.

Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence, they added.

Ending her fast, Maliwal said, “Every day children aged three, four or six years are getting raped in a brutal manner. I wrote letters and issued notices. I even submitted 5.5 lakh letters written by citizens to the prime minister, but in vain.

“After which, I decided to sit on a hunger strike. There was no strategy, but gradually people joined the movement across the country. It gained such a momentum that the prime minister after returning to India had to make an amendment in the law. I congratulate the people of India for this victory,” she said.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief had been demanding death penalty for rape of minors and setting up of fast-track courts across the country to try rape cases, along with other demands.

Amid a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault on girls and women at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, Surat in Gujarat and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, the Union cabinet had yesterday approved the ordinance to provide stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.

Maliwal had yesterday written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioning her six demands, including the passage of the ordinance, recruitment of police personnel as per the United Nations standards and fixing accountability of the police force.

She had also sought that files relating to the recruitment of 14,000 police personnel – approved by the Union home ministry but pending with the finance ministry – be cleared.

Maliwal also put forth her demand for constitution of a high-level committee, comprising Delhi chief minister, home minister and Lieutenant Governor to review safety of women in the national capital.

India shares ASEAN vision for rule-based societies: Modi

 Leaders of India and ASEAN on Thursday discussed ways to boost maritime security, connectivity and trade, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that India shares the ASEAN vision for rule-based societies and pitched for freedom of navigation in the region.

The India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit, with highest-level of participation from all the 10 member-countries of the grouping, began with Modi releasing commemorative stamps in the presence of ASEAN leaders to mark 25 years of Indo-ASEAN ties.

Addressing the plenary session, Modi said India shares the ASEAN’s vision for rule-based societies and values of peace.

Freedom of navigation will be a key focus of India-ASEAN in the maritime domain, he said.

The highest-level of participation at the summit comes in the backdrop of increasing Chinese economic and military assertiveness in the region.

Some experts feel that the meet can be an opportunity for India to present itself as a powerful ally to these countries in the strategic areas of trade and connectivity.

The ASEAN leaders will also be chief guests at the Republic Day on Friday which was termed by Modi as “historic and unprecedented”.

According to officials, the summit is expected to give boost to India-ASEAN cooperation in key areas of counter- terrorism, security and connectivity.

Earlier, President Ram Nath Kovind hosted a lunch in honour of ASEAN leaders, who along with Modi also participated in a retreat session during which the leaders had a “free and frank” discussion on “maritime cooperation and security”.

Modi had also had bilateral meetings with six ASEAN leaders, including his counterparts from Thailand and Singapore, which is the current chair of the ASEAN grouping.