UN rights chief files intervention application in SC on CAA, India criticises move

UN rights chief files intervention application in SC on CAA
Representational Image

New Delhi: In an unprecedented intervention, the UN Human Rights chief has moved the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), drawing a strong condemnation from India on Tuesday that no foreign party has "any locus standi" on matters relating to its sovereignty.

The apex court is currently hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the amended citizenship law and had on December 18 sought the response of the Centre.

In its 12-page intervention application, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) sought to "assist the Court, in examining the compatibility of the CAA with India's Constitution, in light of India's obligations under the international human rights law".

The OHCHR welcomed as commendable 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.

Asked whether the OHCHR can approach the Supreme Court, a government official familiar with the matter said it was for the apex court to take a decision.

In its application, the OHCHR said, "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."

It added however that there exist "religious minorities in these countries, especially of the Muslim faith, including Ahmadia, Hazara and Shia Muslims whose situations would warrant protection on the same basis as that provided in the preferential treatment proposed by the CAA".

The plea maintained that all migrants regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or immigration status enjoy human rights and are entitled to protection.


The OHCHR said the CAA raised important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees.

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.

Referring to several international covenants, it said India has "championed the right to equal protection of the law" and the right to equality before the law.

"Without prejudice to the power of States to establish migration policies as a manifestation of their sovereignty, including measures in favour of migrants that may be subject to persecution and other serious human rights violations/ irreparable harm in their countries of origin or previous residence, States must ensure migration governance measures are in accordance with international human rights law, including the right to equality before the law, equal protection of the law ...," it said.

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.

India hits back

In response to queries, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India's Permanent Mission in Geneva was informed on Monday evening by Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, that her office has filed an intervention application in the Supreme Court on the CAA.

"The CAA is an internal matter of India and concerns the sovereign right of the Indian Parliament to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India's sovereignty," Kumar said.

India is clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of its constitutional values, he said.

UN rights chief files intervention application in SC on CAA, India criticises move
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. File photo

"It is reflective of our long standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India," he added.

"India is a democratic country governed by the rule of law. We all have 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," he said.

Congress attacks Modi

BJP spokesperson Baijayant Panda slammed the UN body for its move.

In a tweet, Panda said the OHCHR has "no shame" in opposing the CAA when it was aimed at providing help to persecuted minorities.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel attacked the Modi government over the move by the OHCHR, saying it is an "unwarranted interference", but it is the Centre that is to be blamed for the "mess".

"No doubt that UN's intervening application is a case of unwarranted interference in our matters," Patel said in a tweet.

"But who is to blame for this mess? The Government of India for creating a window for such interference by enacting a law which breaches global standards on human rights," the AICC treasurer said.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India on 11 December, 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014. Many saw this new law as discriminating towards Muslims.

The passage of the legislation caused large-scale protests in India. In Assam and other northeastern states, protests mushroomed over fears that granting Indian citizenship to refugees and immigrants will cause a loss of their 'political rights, culture and land rights' and motivate further immigration from Bangladesh.

In other parts of India, protesters said the bill discriminated against Muslims and demanded that Indian citizenship to be granted to Muslim refugees and immigrants.

The protests triggered clashes and led to several deaths, injuries to protesters and police personnel, damage to public and private property, the detention of hundreds of people, and suspensions of local internet mobile phone connectivity in certain areas. Many states including Kerala, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Punjab have announced they will not implement the Act. The Union Home Ministry had contested these actions stating that states lack the legal power to stop the implementation of the CAA.

Passage of the bill was a key election promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had promised that his party would grant citizenship to the six communities who, according to the government, have historically faced persecution on grounds of religion in the three Muslim-dominated countries. Lawmakers belonging to his party voted in favour of the bill.

(With inputs from agencies)

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.