NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), despite the matter being “uppermost in everybody’s mind", saying it first wants to hear the Centre’s response to pleas challenging the law.
The apex court also asked all high courts not to pass any order on CAA.
A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, granted the government four weeks to file its reply. The court would separately hear the cases pertaining to Assam and Tripura challenging the validity of the Act that was notified on 10 January. It also hinted at setting up a larger five-judge bench to hear the cases.
The court made it clear that it would not pass any ex-parte order without hearing the Centre on staying the operation of the Act and the National Population Register (NPR).
During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal requested the court to postpone the exercise of NPR for two months, to which Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said a stay and a postponement would mean the same thing.
The court was hearing more than 140 petitions challenging CAA. The controversial Act has been challenged by various entities, including law students, Muslim groups, lawyers, individual politicians and political parties.
They include Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Peace Party advocate M.L. Sharma and non-government organizations Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate.
On 15 January, Kerala became the first state to move the Supreme Court challenging the Act. The plea, filed under Article 131 of the Constitution on disputes between the Centre and states, said the Act violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution, the right to life (Article 21) and the freedom to practice religion (Article 25).
One of the challengers, Indian Union Muslim League has moved a separate application seeking a direction to the government to clarify whether the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and NPR are linked and whether NRC would be implemented across India.
“The impugned Act creates two classifications, a classification on the basis of religion and a classification on the basis of geography, and both classifications are completely unreasonable and share no rational nexus to the object of the impugned Act," contended the petition filed by Ramesh.