SC reserves verdict on petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955

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On December 12, 2023, the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of India reserved its verdict in the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, after hearing the arguments of all counsels for four days. The five-judge Constitution bench comprises Chief Justice of India DY ChandrachudJustice JB PardiwalaJustice Manoj MisraJustice MM Sundresh, and Justice Surya Kant. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Attorney General R Venkataramani, Senior Advocate (SA) Kapil Sibal, SA Shyam Divan, SA CU Singh, SA Sanjay Hegde, SA Salman Khurshid, SA Shadan Farasat, and others argued on the petitions against the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act. 

During the SC proceedings, SA appearing for the Assam minority community, Sanjay Hegde, argued, “I am privileged to have worked in the area of citizenship, and I am grateful that I was sent to Shaheen Bagh by this court to speak to people about citizenship doubts. I will only focus on Section 6A because any word on citizenship here and there has grave ramifications. People greatly resent it when their Indian-ness is questioned. We are all Indians. We may have come from different boats, but we are on the same ship.” Further, SG Mehta read the affidavit filed by the Centre, “On the question of how many persons were detected to be foreigners by an order of the Foreigner Tribunal Order with reference to 1966-1971. The numbers are 32,381 to this date. The second issue was the estimated inflow of illegal migrants into India, including but not confined to the State of Assam. In substance, we have said there is a porous border; they come clandestinely. Therefore, it is not possible to give exact figures. The situation is grim. I will not dispute the citizens on that. There are a hundred foreign tribunals. The total number of cases disposed of is 3,34,966. The number of cases pending is 97,714.” 

SA Divan told the SC bench, in his rejoinder submissions, that individuals could still apply for citizenship under Section 6A today as there was the absence of a temporal limit to the operation of Section 6A. CJI Chandrachud remarked “We must realize we deal with people who came before 1966. So here the person has to show entry before 66 or his parents, or grandparents. This deeming conferring of citizenship is only for those who can show who came after 1966 ... When the law provides for a deeming consequence that consequence operates without adjudication; Deeming fiction as we call it. When the consequence is called into question on the ground that conditions for that consequence are absent, therefore person not entitled for benefit of the section will come into place for adjudication.” CJI also said, “Suppose a person before '66 applies for a passport. The passport officer says I can't give you a passport; you are not an Indian citizen. At that stage, if he says no I am an Indian citizen under 6A (2), certainly the validity of his status can then be decided.”