File Image: Harish Salve (left)
Amid sporadic protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) across India, and days after northeast Delhi witnessed violence over the contentious Act, renowned Supreme Court advocate Harish Salve said he fails to understand why the Act is being “condemned as discriminatory”.
In an opinion piece titled ‘CAA is necessary’ in The Times of India, Salve argued that the Citizenship Amendment Act is neither discriminatory nor unconstitutional.
Writing that in any country which is governed by the rule of law, citizenship can be acquired by birth, descent, naturalisation, or by acquisition of territories, Salve said, “Those who enter a country without its permission are illegal citizens and are liable to be deported.”
“I fail to understand how a law which is designed to confer the benefit on an identified class of persons, and which identification is based on a rational criterion, can be condemned as being discriminatory on the ground that the legislation could have created a wider class…” Salve added.
Saying that the principle of equality does not mean that every law must have universal application, the advocate said even the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to interfere and left it for the government to decide which policy is best for India.
Pointing out that the avowed objective of CAA is to confer Indian citizenship upon members of minority communities who hail from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Salve retorted, “Do we really need proof that minorities are persecuted in these Islamic republics? How can Parliament be faulted for coming to a conclusion that such minorities in the three named neighbours need to be protected?”
On the argument that CAA is unconstitutional, Salve said that it is the Indian Constitution that confers special rights on religious minorities. The renowned advocate said that if the ambit of the law was broadened to include Muslims, “we could as well do away with our borders”.
On the purported speculation that the act is an intention of the government to get rid of Muslims in India, Salve clarified, “The Prime Minister has denied it.”
Although, he said, “If any procedure put in place requires Muslims alone all over India to prove their citizenship in a manner more onerous than that applicable to any other community, such a procedure would be unconstitutional.”