New Delhi: The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, faces its first legal challenge as the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has decided to file a writ petition in the Supreme Court against the contentious legislation.
The IUML had earlier said it would challenge the bill in the apex court once it is passed by Parliament as it asserted that the legislation violates Article 14 of the Constitution by bringing in religion-based citizenship.
The bill, which seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who faced religious persecution there, has been panned by the Opposition for being discriminatory.
The bill was passed with 125 votes in favour and 105 against it in the Rajya Sabha as besides BJP and its allies such as the Janata Dal (United) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the legislation was supported by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the YSR Congress.
Replying to a six-and-a-half-hour debate on the Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the bill seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted minorities in the three countries and not take away citizenship of anyone. He rejected the Opposition charge that the Bill was against Muslims and said they have nothing to fear.
The legislation sailed through even as Assam and its neighbouring states in the Northeast witnessed intense protests on Wednesday over the hugely emotive bill. Guwahati was placed under indefinite curfew and mobile internet services were cut off for 24 hours beginning 7 pm on Wednesday, with Tripura already facing a 48-hour internet blockade.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the Bill’s passage as a "landmark day" for India and its ethos of compassion and brotherhood. The Bill will "alleviate sufferings of many who faced persecution for years", he wrote on Twitter.
However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it marks a "dark day" in the constitutional history of India and is a "victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces" over the country's pluralism.
In a strongly-worded statement issued immediately after the Bill was passed, Gandhi said the bill is not just an affront to the eternal principles of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in the Constitution, but represents a rejection of an India that would be a free nation for all her people, irrespective of religion, region, caste, creed, language or ethnicity.