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The Supreme Court on Friday sought replies from the Centre and the Assam government on a plea challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024, meant to operationalise and regulate the process of granting Indian citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who came from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 31, 2014.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala took note of the submissions of a lawyer representing petitioner Hiren Gohain, a Guwahati resident, and issued notices to the state government and the union ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs.

The top court also ordered that the fresh plea be tagged with those pending on the issue.

The late plea on the hugely contentious issue said, “The uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam has caused huge demographic changes in Assam. The indigenous people, who were once the majority, have now become a minority in their land.”

Recently, the bench, while refusing to stay the operation of the CAA Rules, asked the Centre to respond to the applications seeking a stay on their implementation till the apex court has disposed of the pleas challenging the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Gohain, in his plea, said the CAA Rules, 2024 are “ultra-vires to the Constitution” as they are “palpably discriminatory, manifestly arbitrary, illegal and against the basic structure of the Constitution”.

“It is stated that the impugned Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 violates the petitioners’ fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 (right to equality), 15 (right against discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste etc), 19 (freedom of speech and expression), 21 (right to life and personal liberty) etc of the Constitution,” it said.

Gohain said he has filed the plea in his personal as well as in representative capacity of a majority of the indigenous people living in Assam and seeks enforcement of their fundamental rights.

Raising the issue of an “uncontrolled” influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Assam, the plea said it was not a communal issue.

“Neither it is a Hindu-Muslim or indigenous people v/s Bengali immigrant’s issue. Rather it is an issue of foreign infiltrators, be it Hindus or Muslims, who are inundating the land that for centuries has belonged to the indigenous people of Assam. In other words, it is an issue between Indians and non-Indians/ foreigners and one of grave importance for the entire nation,” it said.

“It is stated that according to the 2011 census, the population of Assam was about 3.21 crores out of which only 1.34 crore people are indigenous Assamese. This figure includes the Assamese Muslims and indigenous people of the different tribes like Bodo, Missing, Rabha, Karbi etc.

Additionally, there are about 48 lakh people that comprise the tea tribes, it said.

“The total of the aforesaid two figures comes to about 1.82 crores. A major part of the remaining population of Assam essentially comprises Bengali speaking Hindus and Muslims and a minor part comprises Hindi/other language speaking people who have migrated from the other states of India,” the petition said.

With the unveiling of the rules on March 11, days ahead of the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, the Modi government kicked off the process of granting Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants — Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians — from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The rules came into force with immediate effect, according to a gazette notification.

The massively polarising CAA sparked protests in various parts of the country in late 2019 and early 2020 over its alleged discriminatory provisions.