SC refuses to stay on CAA, gives Centre 4 weeks to respond to CAA petitions

The petitions challenge the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019.

CAA

The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to stay the contentious Citizenship(Amendment) Act (CAA) until it heard the Centre’s response and hinted that it would set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear the matter.

A three-judge bench headed by CJI S A Bobde, which was hearing a batch of 143 pleas, granted the Centre four weeks to reply. It also restrained all high courts from hearing pleas related to CAA till it decided on petitions

A bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, had issued notice to the Centre on December 18 on various pleas including those filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

A total of 143 petitions have been filed before the court. CJI Bobde identifies that the challenge to CAA will have to be bifurcated in two sections – one concerning Tripura and Assam and another CAA in general because of the special grounds in those cases.

“In Assam there is a unique problem because of Bangladesh. Earlier the date was 1950, then it was extended to 1971. The extension is challenged before this court. It’s referred to larger bench,” senior advocate Vikas Singh said about Assam.

Most of the petitions challenge the constitutional validity of the CAA.

The SC also decided to set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear pleas on CAA. It also barred the high courts from passing any orders related to the Act until it decided on the matter.

Attorney General sought a period of six weeks to file counters on the grounds that about 80 more petitions have been filed. Petitioners oppose the request for six weeks, reports Bar and Bench.

Senior advocates AM Singhvi, Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioners requested the court to put on hold operation of CAA and postpone the exercise of NPR for the time being. The court denied the demand saying that it is the same as asking for a stay.

According to Live Law, Senior Advocate AM Singhvi mentions that many states have started the NPR process. Senior Adv Vikas Singh presses for an interim order, saying that CAA violates Assam Accord.

The petitions contend that CAA stands against the basic structure of the Constitution and is illegal. Some of the petitions have also sought the legislation that came into force on January 10 be withdrawn.

Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA, including by RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi. Several other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs ‘Rihai Manch’ and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M.L. Sharma, and law students have also approached the apex court challenging the Act.

The CAA seeks to grant citizenship rights to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised both within and outside India and discriminatory. It is the first Indian law to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.

IUML said in its plea that CAA violates the fundamental Right to Equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion.

The plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, said the Act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats “equals as unequal”.

Ramesh said the substantial questions of law, including whether religion can be a factor to either acquire or deny citizenship in India, arises for consideration of the court as it is a “patently unconstitutional” amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Ramesh said the substantial questions of law, including whether religion can be a factor to either acquire or deny citizenship in India, arises for consideration of the court as it is a “patently unconstitutional” amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955.

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