In response to an Intervention Application filed by the Indian Union Muslim League against Notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 28th May, 2021, the Centre has submited to the Supreme Court that the impugned notification has no relation with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
By: Darshana Pagare ILS, Pune
On 28th May, 2021, the Centre issued a notification which stated that the Collectors of the districts of – (i) Morbi, Rajkot, Patan and Vadodara in the State of Gujarat ; (ii) Durg and Balodabazar in the State of Chhattisgarh ; (iii) Jalore, Udaipur, Pali, Barmer and Sirohi in the State of Rajasthan ; (iv) Faridabad in the State of Haryana; and (v) Jalandhar in the State of Punjab, have been empowered to exercise the powers of the Central Government under Section 5 for registration as a citizen of was only for those refugees who belonged to minority communities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan(Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis).
This has been challenged by the Indian Union Muslim League in an interlocutory application which contended that, “The Respondent Union, in a roundabout way, and in an attempt to circumvent the assurance given to this Hon’ble Court, have sought to implement their mala fide designs envisaged under the Citizenship Amendment Act through the recently issued order dated 28.5.2021.” The said application was filed in the writ petition filed by the IUML challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
The Counter-Affidavit filed by the Centre submitted that the impugned notification merely seeks to delegate power of the Central Government to the local authorities in particular cases.
It was said that “The said notification does not provide for any relaxations to the foreigners and applies only to foreigners who have entered the country legally as the Central Government used its authority under Section 16 of the Citizenship Act and delegated its powers to grant citizenship by Registration or Naturalisation to District Collectors. It is submitted that it is merely an administrative delegation of power without any specific classification or relaxation.”
Delineating the framework which governs the delegation of power notifications, the Counter-Affidavit submits that Section 16 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, confers powers on the Central Government to delegate some of its citizenship-granting powers to such officer or authority as may be specified in order to fast track the decision on citizenship applications, and the same method has been employed numerous times in the past.
Furthermore, “It is submitted that the said measure has been taken on numerous occasion previously and is largely a function of the administrative exigencies of the situation…It is submitted that the same would not be relatable to the legislative steps taken through the CAA which provide for a classification with a rational nexus and intelligible differentia…”
Contending that the impugned notification is merely a process of decentralization of decision-making aimed at speedy disposal of citizenship application of foreigners, the Counter states that decision will now be taken at the District or State level itself after examining each case, and that no relaxation has been made in respect of the eligibility criteria between different foreign nationals.
“It is further submitted that the existing law and procedure for acquiring citizenship of India is in no way sought to be amended through the impugned notification. It is submitted that any foreigner of any faith can apply for citizenship of India at any time. The Central Government shall decide that application as per law and rules,” stated that Counter-Affidavit.