- CAA consistent with “our constitutional values”, said MEA
- The UNHRC has filed an intervention plea with the top court
- Citizenship law has been fiercely opposed by several non-BJP ruled states
The Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, is an internal matter and no foreign party has any standing on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a sharply-worded statement today, after it emerged that the UN Human Rights Council had taken the unprecedented step of approaching the Supreme Court of India over this issue.
In a move that signals growing pressure on India, the UNHRC has filed an intervention plea with the top court, the first time such a petition has been filed, asking for it to be made a party in the case against the CAA that is currently being heard by the top court.
“The Citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian parliament to make laws. We strongly believe no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty,” the ministry has said.
The MEA response went on to assert that the CAA, which the government says will help non-Muslim refugees fleeing religious persecution, was “constitutionally valid”, was consistent with “our constitutional values” and upheld human rights values.
“It is reflective of our long-standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India,” the ministry said.
In January, the court, hearing a massive 143 petitions challenging the legal validity of the CAA, declined to put the law on hold and, instead, gave the centre four weeks to respond.
The petitioners, who include political parties like the Congress, the DMK, the Indian Union Muslim League and some Left parties, had argued the law was illegal and violated basic secular structure of the Constitution.
The CAA, which was passed by parliament in December, has also been criticised as being discriminating against Muslims. The opposition has alleged the CAA, with the NRC (national register of citizens) and NPR (national population register), can be used to target Muslims.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders have routinely defended the CAA, insisting that the opposition has spread rumours and misinformation over it for political gain. Addressing a rally in Bengal this week Mr Shah accused Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of “triggering riots” and “burning trains” to oppose the law.
The CAA has been fiercely opposed by several non-BJP ruled states, such as Bengal, Kerala and the Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. These states have passed anti-CAA resolutions in the respective assemblies, with Ms Banerjee and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan going so far as to stop all work on the NPR and NRC.
Horrific violence broke out over the law in Delhi last week, leaving at least 46 people dead and hundreds injured.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had voiced “great concern” over attacks that left schools, houses and shops burnt and residents in northeast Delhi terrified.
In response India “encouraged” the global body to develop a “better understanding and appreciation” of freedoms and rights guaranteed and protected by the Indian constitution.
Shortly after the CAA was passed by parliament the United Nations had expressed concern over a law that was “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.
A spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said it would “have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality”.
The spokesperson also said: “All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to respect, protection and fulfilment of their human rights”.
The CAA has sparked widespread and sustained protests across the country, with the peaceful and weeks-long sit-in in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area becoming the epicentre.