In an unprecedented departure, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, has informed India’s Permanent Mission at the UN in Geneva that she “intends to file” an intervention application in the Supreme Court on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act because an “examination of the CAA in the present case raises important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees”.
Through the application, the UN Commissioner “seeks to intervene as amicus curiae (third-party) in this case, by virtue of her mandate to inter alia protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141.”
India reacted sharply and underlined that the CAA was an “internal matter of India” and “no foreign party has any locus standi” on issues pertaining to its sovereignty.
While the Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the Permanent Mission in Geneva was informed Monday evening by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights that her Office had filed an Intervention Application, the United Nations Information Centre in Delhi told The Indian Express she “intends to file” the application in the next couple of days, and had informed the Indian government, in advance.
“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,” the MEA spokesperson said. Stressing that India is a democratic country governed by the rule of law, he said, “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.”
The Supreme Court is hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The intervention application has been made on a petition filed by former diplomat Deb Mukharji. He had served as Indian envoy to Bangladesh in the past.
There is no known precedent of the UN moving the Supreme Court in India in the recent past. A Special Rapporteur of the United Nations had filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court last week, seeking to assist the Court in the matter concerning deportation of Rohingyas from India. In the case of foreign governments, the Italian envoy was made a party at the Italian marines case.
In her application, Michelle Bachelet Jeria said the High Commissioner is the principal human rights official of the United Nations. “The High Commissioner’s role is thus to promote adherence to international human rights law and, with this purpose in mind, to support domestic courts, with their constitutional or judicial function, in ensuring the implementation of international legal obligations,” the application said.
The application said the “examination of the CAA in the present case raises important issues with respect to international human rights law and its application to migrants, including refugees”.
“The examination by the Honourable Court of the CAA is of substantial interest to the High Commissioner, considering its potential implications for the application and interpretation of India’s international human rights obligations, including the right to equality before the law and the prohibition of discrimination as well as the CAA’s impact on the protection of human rights of migrants, including refugees in India,” it said.
It also said “special attention” is given to the core international human rights treaties to which India is a State party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
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