The United Nations Human Rights Council moved an application for intervention in the Indian Supreme Court, opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act, published on Tuesday by India Today.
Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (the High Commissioner) filed the case.
Jeria’s question, it was made clear, is that the exclusion of Muslims from their naturalization process by the CAA fits with the principle of equality under the law that the country is sworn to uphold.
For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits discrimination on racial, ethnic and religious grounds, and India is committed to its provisions.
In addition, the application cites the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Ordinary Migration, which commits India to ensuring human rights in migration matters.
It argues that the act put Muslim migrants at risk, in addition to having issues of reasonableness and objectivity which may not be in line with India’s commitment to international covenants.
The UN petition came in the midst of ongoing demonstrations against the CAA in India — which was implemented last year in December. Last week’s demonstrations took a turn for the worst in Delhi, where over 40 people in different parts of the city were killed in communal violence.
“Our Permanent Mission to Geneva was told by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday evening that its office had filed an application for intervention before the Supreme Court of India with regard to CAA,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs of India, in a four-point statement.
“The CAA is India’s internal affair and involves the Indian Parliament’s constitutional right to make laws. We strongly believe that no international party has any locus standi [ rights ] on matters relating to India’s sovereignty,” Kumar said.
The CAA makes it easier for religious minorities from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries who came to India before 2015 to get Indian citizenship – but not if they are Muslim.
In conjunction with the National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), Indian Muslims, who make up nearly 15% of the country’s 1.3 billion population, fear that they will be marginalized.
Muslim groups, opposition parties and activists have filed nearly 140 petitions saying the law violates India’s secular constitution.
The request of the UNHRC also came as India summoned Iran’s envoy to New Delhi on Tuesday in response to tweets by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, condemning the “wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims.”
Kumar said a “strong protest was lodged against the unwarranted remarks” by Tehran, adding that they were “not acceptable”.
Since the passage of the CAA on December 11, hundreds of thousands of people across India, led mainly by Muslims and students, have been protesting against the legislation.
Until now, violence against the law has killed over 75 people across the country.
Last week, in the national capital’s worst communal violence in decades, at least 47 people were killed and more than a hundred injured as groups shouting Hindu nationalist slogans torched mosques and dozens of Muslim homes.
Many Muslims have abandoned their homes in areas affected by violence and have taken refuge in shelters set up by volunteer workers or moved to their families ‘ homes.
Violence took place after a series of hate speech by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, some of whom warned Muslims to shut down peaceful sit-ins or face consequences.
Videos shared on social media showed officials from Delhi Police pressuring wounded Muslim men to sing the national anthem, and in some cases breaking CCTV cameras in areas affected by abuse.
Unencumbered by criticism, India’s nationalist Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last month that his government is “through all the heat” by its CAA decision.