The Supreme Court of India (SC) on January 22 gave the Centre four weeks to file a response to petitions challenging constitutional validity of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde refused to stay implementation of CAA or the National Population Register (NPR) in the meanwhile.
The bench was hearing a batch of 143 petitions challenging the validity of CAA, including those filed by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the government has been given copies of around 60 pleas out of the 143 petitions. He said it wanted time to respond to pleas which have not been served on it.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal urged the bench to put on hold operation of CAA and postpone the NPR exercise for the time being.
The court said it will not grant any stay on CAA without hearing the Centre on the matter.
The apex court also restrained all high courts from passing any order on CAA.
Also read: Explained | CAA protests: Can states actually challenge constitutional validity of central laws?
According to the amended citizenship law, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who came from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be eligible for Indian citizenship. The law excludes Muslims.
Those opposing the amended law say it discriminates on the basis of religion and violates the Constitution. They also allege that the CAA, along with the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC), is intended to target India’s Muslim community.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government has dismissed the allegations, maintaining that the law is intended to give citizenship to the persecuted people from the three neighbouring countries and not take away citizenship from anyone.