• Introduction:

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of India, enacted in December 2019, has been a subject of heated debate globally. While proponents argue it offers a lifeline to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, critics contend it undermines principles of equality and non-discrimination, particularly against Muslims. Let’s delve into the legal frameworks, both international and Indian, to dissect the implications of India’s CAA through the lens of non-discrimination and equality.

  • International Legal Framework:
  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): Article 2 of the UDHR emphasizes the entitlement of all individuals to rights and freedoms without any form of discrimination. However, the CAA’s preferential treatment for non-Muslim migrants potentially violates this fundamental principle.
  2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Article 26 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to equality before the law and prohibits discrimination. The CAA’s exclusionary criteria based on religion challenge the essence of this provision.
  3. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD): While CERD primarily focuses on racial discrimination, its underlying principle of non-discrimination extends to all forms of distinction, including religion. Thus, the CAA’s religious preference may conflict with the spirit of CERD.
  • Indian Legal Framework:
  1. Constitution of India: The Indian Constitution, in Articles 14 and 15, upholds the principles of equality before the law and prohibits discrimination based on religion, among other grounds. The CAA’s religious criterion raises constitutional concerns regarding the violation of these fundamental rights.

    Case Law: Historically, the Indian judiciary has been a staunch defender of equality and non-discrimination. Landmark cases such as Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala and Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India underscore the judiciary’s commitment to upholding these principles.

  2. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): The NHRC, tasked with safeguarding human rights in India, has expressed apprehensions about the potential discriminatory impact of the CAA. It emphasizes the need for measures to ensure that the Act does not infringe upon the rights of any group.
  • Case Studies:
  1. Rohingya Refugees: The plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar highlights the importance of non-discriminatory policies in providing refuge to vulnerable populations. India’s CAA, which excludes Muslims from neighbouring countries, raises questions about its adherence to international refugee law principles.
  2. Assam NRC: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, coupled with the CAA, has raised concerns about the potential disenfranchisement of Muslim immigrants. This highlights the complexities and implications of implementing discriminatory policies within the Indian context.
  • Conclusion:

India’s Citizenship Amendment Act has ignited a contentious discourse on the balance between humanitarianism and discrimination. While supporters argue for the protection of persecuted minorities, detractors raise valid concerns about the Act’s discriminatory nature. As the debate rages on, it is imperative for India to uphold its constitutional and international commitments to equality and non-discrimination, ensuring that no individual or group is marginalized based on their religion or ethnicity.

With its global implications and domestic ramifications, the CAA remains a focal point for legal, moral, and political scrutiny. Moving forward, India must navigate these complexities with sensitivity and a steadfast commitment to upholding the principles of equality and non-discrimination embedded in its legal and moral fabric. Only then can it truly fulfill its promise of being a beacon of democracy and human rights on the world stage.