UNHCR approaches SC over CAA, MEA says foreign party has no locus standi

MEA responded to UNHCR stating CAA is interanl matter of India. (Source: S Jaishankar)
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Tuesday reiterated that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws. The statement came in response to an intervention application filed in the Supreme Court by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

"Our Permanent Mission in Geneva was informed yesterday evening by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (Michelle Bachelet) that her office had filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act," MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The plea, filed on behalf of High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet Jeria sought to intervene as an amicus curiae (third party) in the matter by virtue of mandate to protect and promote human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard. The High Commissioner's office welcomed the "stated purpose of the CAA" to protect "some persons from persecution on religious grounds", but raised the issue of exclusion of various sects of persecuted Muslims under the law.

"The CAA can potentially benefit thousands of migrants in an irregular situation, including refugees, who might otherwise face obstacles in obtaining protection from persecution in their countries of origin including through the grant of citizenship. This is a commendable purpose," the plea said.

An elderly anti-CAA protestor gestures while talking to SC-appointed interlocutors at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi. Photo: PTI
India is clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of its constitutional values, Kumar said in a statement. "We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India's sovereignty," Raveesh said.

"India is a democratic country governed by the rule of law. We all have the utmost respect for and full trust in our independent judiciary. We are confident that our sound and legally sustainable position will be vindicated by the Supreme Court," the spokesperson said.

The apex court had on December 18 last year sought response of the Centre on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of CAA. The OHCHR said the CAA raised important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees. 

Security personnel stand near a burning shop following clashes over the new citizenship law, in Gokulpuri. PTI
The plea urged the top court to take into account the international human rights law, norms, and standards, in the proceedings related to CAA and termed it "important" for India and its diverse communities which have been welcomed by the State.

The CAA also raises other issues "including its compatibility in relation to the right to equality before the law and non-discrimination on nationality grounds under India's human rights obligations", the plea said.

The intervention application by the UN body comes days after a spate of communal violence left 47 dead while over 200 injured in several parts of Northeast Delhi. The violence erupted as pro and anti-CAA protestors came face to face in the national capital as law and order situation took a beating. 

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