Hearing over 140 petitions, mostly against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which was passed in both the Houses of Parliament last month, the Supreme Court Wednesday said it will not grant any stay on CAA without hearing the Centre and that it will set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear the pleas.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, RJD leader Manoj Jha, Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union (AASU), Peace Party, CPI, NGOs "Rihai Manch" and Citizens Against Hate are among the several parties that have filed petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act.
On December 18, 2019, the apex court had issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response by the second week of January on a batch of petitions challenging the CAA's legality.
Assam, Tripura Accords and changes in citizenship will be considered separately.
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On January 9, the Supreme Court said it would not hear the petitions against the Act until violent protests came to an end. Meanwhile, Kerala became the first state to move the apex court challenging the CAA under Article 131 of the Constitution.
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President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, turning it into an Act.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) seeks to grant citizenship 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. The apex court had observed that saying the country is going through hard times against the backdrop of violence in many states, and therefore the endeavour should be for peace. It is the first Indian law to grant citizenship on the basis of religion.
Opposition leaders, Muslim organisations and student groups had petitioned the court to hold off the implementation of the law until the challenges to the legislation were settled. "This court's job is to determine the validity of a law and not declare it as constitutional", the CJI then said. Underscoring the government's hard-line, Home Minister Amit Shah in a rally on Tuesday said that the law would not be withdrawn under any circumstance.
However, senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid have said that state governments can not legally refuse to implement the law. It said that the Act was discriminatory against Muslims as it extends benefits only to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.