Assam Accord: SC bench to hear pleas vs Sec 6A of Citizenship Act

Assam Accord: SC bench to hear pleas vs Sec 6A of Citizenship Act

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday posted the hearing of the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act inserted by way of an amendment in 1985 in furtherance of the Assam Accord for November 1, 2022.

The bench will set out directions for scheduling the hearing dates on November 1.

According to a report on LiveLaw, senior advocate Indira Jaising had apprised the Constitution Bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, MR Shah, Krishna Murari, Hima Kohli, and PS Narasimha, that one of the ten questions of law referred to the bench was whether the delay in the hearing of the matter would affect vested interests. She suggested that the same can be decided as a preliminary issue.

“One question is whether delay in hearing would affect vested interest. What is in issue is the validity of Section 6A, whether it would relate back to affect vested interest. If it can be taken as a preliminary issue,” she said.

The section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 contains the provisions with respect to citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord (1985). This section was introduced through an amendment made in 1985, in the Citizenship Act, 1955. The section 6A of the act says that all those who came to Assam on or after 1 January, 1966, but before 25th March, 1971 from the specified territory (it includes all territories of Bangladesh at the time of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985), and since then are residents of Assam, must register themselves under section-18 for citizenship. Therefore, this act fixes March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.

Assam Accord

The years between 1979 and 1985 witnessed huge political instability, collapse of state government, president’s rule and unprecedented ethnic violence in Assam.  The elections conducted by the government were totally boycotted and violence based on linguistic and communal identities killed thousands in the state. Finally, to cope up with the situation, the then Rajiv Gandhi government signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) with the leaders of the movement on 15 August 1985 called Assam Accord. As per this accord:

  • all those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship including the right to vote.
  • Migrants those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported.
  • Those who entered between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.

Current issue

Over the years, several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against the constitutional validity of the Section 6A in the Citizenship Act. This is because the new rule by the central government was in contrast to Article 6 of the Constitution, according to which the cut-off for determining citizenship in India was July 19, 1948. Several groups from Assam such as Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, Asam Sahitya Sabha, Assam Public Works and All Assam Ahom challenged the section 6A of the act in the court, citing reason that the section is showing discrimination in grant of citizenship to the migrants in the country.

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