In an unprecedented move, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) Michelle Bachelet is moving to file an intervention application in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) seeks to intervene as amicus curiae (third- party) in the original writ petition filed by retired IFS officer Deb Mukharji challenging the CAA, Deb Mukharji, IFS (Retd.) & Ors. VS. Union of India & Ors.
While India has rebuffed the UN human rights body’s plea, the original petitioner Deb Mukharji, former diplomat, has told India Today that he would not be “comfortable” with a “foreign” organisation being included in a petition on a “domestic” issue.
“I am not comfortable with foreign organisation taking a view in this regard on our internal issue. Our domestic issues have to be resolved internally. I do have sympathies for those abroad who are concerned about our internal developments or who face situation similar to ours. We would like to approach our submissions internally,” he told India Today TV in a telephonic conversation.
On Tuesday, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar asserted that the CAA is an “internal” matter of India and “foreign” parties have no “locus standi” in these decisions.
“The Citizenship Amendment Act 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,” he said in a statement.
According to MEA, India’s Permanent Mission in Geneva was informed on Monday evening by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that her Office had filed an Intervention Application in the Supreme Court of India in respect to the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
While Ambassador Mukharji has said that matters internal to India should be handled internally, he added that he would wait to consult with the legal team and the other two petitioners (who are also former civil servants) in the case after the Supreme Court opines on OHCHR’s plea.
He said, “I wait for the Supreme Court to take a view and thereafter if they approve then I have to consult with the other petitioners and see what our combined view would be on the subject. On this subject, I cannot prejudge the decision of the court.”
Ambassador Deb Mukharji is a retired diplomat who has served as India’s ambassador to Nepal and high commissioner to Bangladesh and has been critical of the Modi government’s decision on the CAA.
“Our plea before the Supreme Court is that the CAA is unconstitutional because it violates three Articles – 14, 21 and 25. We have requested the honourable Supreme Court to deliver a judgement in our favour declaring this law null and void,” he said.
But, he has strongly opposed the idea of a foreign entity tagging itself with their cause.
The MEA spokesperson in response to OHCHR said, “We are clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of our constitutional values. It is reflective of our long standing national commitment in respect of human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the Partition of India.”
Responding to a query by India Today TV, spokesperson of OHCHR, Jeremy Laurence said in a email communication, “I can confirm that the High Commissioner intends to submit an amicus curiae brief on the CAA in the Indian Supreme Court, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s established procedures, and that she has informed the Indian Permanent Mission in Geneva of her intention. The amicus curiae will be filed shortly.”
While the plea was not filed at the time of filing the report, Laurence also added, “The High Commissioner has great respect for the Indian Supreme Court’s independence and importance, and in accordance with similar interventions in domestic jurisdictions by the High Commissioner and her predecessors, the amicus curiae will focus on providing an overview of relevant and applicable international human rights standards and norms to support the Court’s deliberations in the context of its review of the CAA.”
Interestingly, while the OHCHR wants to play a “supportive” role in application of international human rights standards during the court’s deliberations, India has made it very clear that the apex court of India is quite capable of performing its duties without any third party intervention.
“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 would be vindicated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” said Raveesh Kumar.