SC faces deluge of letter petitions, device invented by it 40 years ago | India News

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has been inundated by thousands of letter petitions, a device it improvised 40 years ago to unburden the poor in distress of litigation costs, sent by post by Muslims from across the country challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The Chief Justice of India receives, on an average, 200 letters daily from various persons complaining of violation of fundamental rights, illegal action of authorities, personal cases, suffering at the hands of community leaders and even economic hardship because of crop failure. However, sources in the post office located on the SC premises confirmed to TOI that there had been an unusual surge in letters addressed to CJI S A Bobde since protests broke out against CAA.
Interestingly, when TOI perused some of the letters, it found bunches had been sent from Muslim localities. The typed letters were identical with the name and phone number of the petitioner scribbled at the end in the same handwriting. One such lot, containing nearly 50 letter petitions, came from Davangere in Karnataka. They started by quoting the Preamble of the Constitution and termed the CAA unconstitutional.
The Davangere bunch hints at a certain orchestration in the protest against CAA. “The aim of the CAA is to grant citizenship to religious minorities — naming specifically only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jain, Parsis and Christians — fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have entered India till December 31, 2014. But it does not extend the same protection to Muslims, including minority sects… Religion cannot be the basis for granting or depriving a person from acquiring Indian citizenship,” the letters said.
Sources in the SC’s PIL section told TOI that they had received around 10,000 such letters, majority of them questioning the validity of CAA, with some also extending the challenge to NPR and NRC. The unusual deluge has put the CJI’s office staff as well as the PIL section under strain with extra hours needed to process the mail.
In 1981, the SC had decided to treat deserving letters from the poor as PILs following in the footsteps of the US Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon vs Wainwright to treat a prisoner’s postcard as a petition.
But the purpose behind the 1981 decision appears to be lost in the present deluge. In the S P Gupta case, the SC had said, “Where a member of the public acting bona fide moves the court for enforcement of a fundamental right on behalf of a person or class of persons who on account of poverty or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position cannot approach the court for relief, such member of the public may move the court even by just writing a letter, because it would not be right or fair to expect a person acting pro bono publico to incur expenses out of his own pocket for going to a lawyer and preparing a regular writ petition for being filed in court for enforcement of the fundamental right of the poor and deprived sections of the community and in such a case, a letter addressed by him can legitimately be regarded as an ‘appropriate’ proceeding.”
One letter writer from Udaigiri, Mysuru, challenged the CAA on the same grounds as the Davangere bunch and said, “It was the first time ‘religion’ has been used as criteria for citizenship under Indian law… I strongly oppose and stand against such an unconstitutional law enacted by Parliament. Kindly take my PIL into consideration.”
Another by a Chennai-based woman termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory” and said, “We heard repeatedly that this will be implemented along with NRC. We have seen the result of the NRC exercise in Assam, where about 19 lakh people are kept out of NRC and among them 14 to 15 lakh belong to Hindu communities. The exercise has been painful and affected people belonging to Dalits, tribals, OBCs, Muslims and other poor belonging to other communities.”
She added, “If the NRC and CAA (are) implemented together, then the people belonging to Hindu communities, even if unable to produce the required documents, will be declared refugees and will be given Indian citizenship. This means that the real burden will be only on Muslims to prove their citizenships. This will cause statelessness and hardships on Muslims, who have been living in India for thousands of years and majority of them are the original inhabitants of India.”



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