The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted four weeks time to the Central Government to respond to about 140 writ petitions which challenge the constitutional validity of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
The bench comprising CJI SA Bobde, Justices Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna has also issued notices on all petitions. The matter will be listed after five weeks.
The Court will also consider if the matter requires to be referred to Constitution Bench.
Though some of the parties urged the Court to postpone the implementation of the process under the Act in the meantime, the bench did not pass any order granting such relief.
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde orally remarked that no ex-parte order can be passed as Centre had no notice on all petitions.
The bench also agreed to consider the petitions from Assam and Tripura separately, having regard to the special grounds urged in those cases.
Attorney General K K Venugopal sought for more time citing the need to file reply to 80 additional petitions, which were filed after the Court had earlier issued notice on 60 petitions on December 18.
The top court has also restrained the High Courts from dealing with the matter.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal sought for an order keeping in abeyance the NPR process for at least three months, pointing out that the NPR is scheduled to begin in April.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh sought for an interim order citing that the Act violated Assam accord.
"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", Singh said.
The Attorney General urged the Court to treat Assam petitions separately. The AG also informed that the Assam NRC will not become operative until the final list is published by the Registrar General of India.
Senior Adv K V Vishwanathan submitted that if any person is marked as 'doubtful citizen' during the NPR process, it will lead to problems. Not just Muslims, but Hindus also will get affected, he submitted. Therefore, he sought for postponement of the implementation of the Act. He said that postponement of the implementation is not the same as staying the Act.
Disagreeing with this line of submission, the CJI observed that the effect is the same, even though the words are different.
Senior Adv A M Singhvi said that the Uttar Pradesh government had started the CAA process even without the Rules being framed.
"Without any rules being framed, 40 Lakh people have been marked doubtful. This has happened in 19 districts of UP. Their right to vote will be lost. Kindly stay the process. That's our prayer. This will prevent a lot of chaos and insecurity", he said.
AG submits that seeking the postponement of implementation of the Act is the same as seeking a stay of the same.CJI agrees. Words are different, but the effect is the same, CJI says.#CitizenshipAmendmentAct #supremecourtofindia— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) January 22, 2020
AG submits that seeking the postponement of implementation of the Act is the same as seeking a stay of the same.CJI agrees. Words are different, but the effect is the same, CJI says.#CitizenshipAmendmentAct #supremecourtofindia
On December 18, the SC had issued notice to centre on 60 petitions. Since the Act was yet to be notified then, the petitioners had not pressed for stay.
Later, the Act was brought into force by notification on January 10. Indian Union Muslim League, one of the petitioners, has filed an application seeking stay of this notification, and seeking clarification on whether NRC will be carried out nationwide.
The Petitions contended that the Act, which liberalizes and fast-tracks grant of citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, promotes religion-based discrimination.
As per the petitions, a purely religious classification, devoid of any determining principle, violates the fundamental constitutional value of secularism and Article 14 of the Constitution. The exclusion of Muslims from the Act amounts to unreasonable classification but also violates secularism, which is a basic structure of the Constitution.
The petitioners highlight that similarly situated persecuted groups such as Ahmadiyyas of Pakistan, Rohingyas of Myanmar, Tamils of Sri Lanka etc are not brought under the purview of the Act. This leads to unequal treatment of equals. The exclusion is purely linked to religion, and hence it is an impermissible classification under Article 14. The petitioners further state that associating citizenship with religious identity shakes the secular foundation of Indian Republic.
Some of the Assam-based petitioners argue that the Act violates Assam Accord of 1986. As per the 1985 Accord, all those who had entered Assam from Bangladesh after March 24, 1971 are treated as illegal migrants. The Accord was entered following years of agitations led by Assam groups demanding expulsion of illegal migrants from the State.
The petitioners argue that the CAA - which makes non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who had entered India before December 31, 2014 eligible for Indian citizenship - dilutes the Assam Accord.
"The result of the impugned Act will be that a large number of non-Indians, who have surreptitiously entered Assam after 25.03.1971, without possession of valid passport, travel documents or other lawful authority to do so, will be able to take citizenship and reside therein", stated All Assam Students Union in their petition.
There are also some petitions which challenge the NPR notification and the proposed nation-wide NRC.
Indian Union Muslim League and its four MPs, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, Peace Party of India, Jan Adhikar Party, a former Indian Ambassador along with two retired IAS officers, All Assam Students Union, Assam Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia, Citizens Against Hate, Rihai Manch, Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, Kerala MLA T N Prathapan, "Makkal Needhi Maiam" of Kamal Hassan, United Against Hate, Tripura leader Pradyut Deb Barman, Assam Gana Parishad, Kerala Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, DYFI, DMK , civil rights activists Harsh Mander, Irfan Habib, Nikhil Dey & Prabhat Patnaik, Assam Jamait Ulema -E-Hind, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha, Students Federation of India, etc., are some of the petitioners.
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