Are The Assamese Constitutionally Justified In ‘Saving Assam’? 

Are The Assamese Constitutionally Justified In ‘Saving Assam’? At a polling booth in Assam (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (19 April) began hearing into a case referred to it by an ealier two-member bench in 2014 on the issue of Bangladeshi migrants into Assam. The bench will decide to either hear and complete the case between 11 May and 19 May or postpone the entire proceedings till after the Supreme Court’s summer vacation (11 May to 2 July) reported LiveLaw.

Counsel Sanjay R Hegde made the suggestion of adding more questions or streamlining the existing ones to just question the validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act. He also threw hints at matters such as who are Indians and who are Assamese, and that a particular community could be suspected of their citizenship status, stating that it would violate the Constitutional guarantee of ‘non-discrimination’.

In 2014, the bench had formed a set of 13 questions pertaining to Section 6A, asking whether it was in violation of Constitution, mainly Articles 14 and 21 (equality before law and right to live respectively), by ‘diluting’ the rights of citizens in Assam. It further framed a question on the scope of Article 29(A), relating to right to conserve a distinct language, script or culture by asking for the meaning of ‘culture’ and ‘conserve’ to be cleared.

Section 6A of the Ctizenship Act deals with special provisions for citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord, a memorandum of settlement signed between representatives of the Goernment of India and leaders of the Assam movement in August 1985.

Whether section 6 A violates the basic premise of the Constitution and the Citizenship Act in that it permits citizens who have allegedly not lost their citizenship of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to become deemed citizens of India, thereby conferring dual citizenship to such persons.
Observation of the Bench in 2014.

The earlier bench had directed the Centre to complete fencing the Indo-Bangla border to check the inflow of migrants from Bangladesh. The case was heard after the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, Assam Public Works and All Assam Ahom Association filed a plea in the aftermath of riots in 2012 and 2014. The petitioners had argued that India’s integrity and sovereignty was at risk due to large-scale illegal migration from the neighbouring country affecting the core constitutional value.