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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

No Stay on CAA: Supreme Court Directs Centre to Respond to Petitions ..!

On Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court denied a stay of the Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA. The court also granted the government three weeks, until April 8, to answer to 237 petitions contesting the law, which was notified last week, just days before the Lok Sabha elections.

In addition, the petitioners were given leave to approach if citizenship is granted to any individual before that date; senior lawyers Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaising both made that request, as Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta (appearing for the government) said, “I am not making any statement”.

Mr Mehta had originally sought four weeks’ time to respond to the petitions.

“We will have to file a detailed affidavit, on merits, to 237 petitions. 20 interim applications are already filed and many are in the pipeline. Realistically, we need four weeks,” he told the court.

The matter was heard by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra. The petitioners included the Indian Union Muslim League (a Kerala-based political party) and also opposition leaders Jairam Ramesh of the Congress and Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool.

READ: CAA Challenged: Supreme Court to Review 237 Petitions

The next hearing in this case has been set for April 9.

The petitioners – who did not oppose the request for more time – have sought a pause on implementation of the “discriminatory” CAA, which they have said is against the Muslim community.

The petitioners told the court they would not oppose the government’s request for more time to study the challenges, but urged the Chief Justice-led bench to order a stay on implementation.

In 2019, after the citizenship bill was cleared by Parliament, multiple challenges were filed.

The court did not, however, pause implementation as the rules had not been notified. Last week, arguing in this matter, Mr Sibal said that situation did not apply now, since the rules are notified.

“The problem is… notification was issued after four years. Under the law, rules have to be notified within six months. Now the problem is – if somebody gets citizenship, it will be impossible to reverse,” he said when asked by the court to respond to the government’s request for more time.

“They said (in 2019) they were not notifying rules, so no stay was granted. There is no question of ‘rejection of stay’ (in the earlier instance)… then there were no rules, so there was no stay,” he told the court, laying out his argument for a stay till the challenges to the citizenship law are settled.

“Why have they waited for four years?” he asked, referring to allegations by the Congress and other opposition parties that implementation was delayed to coincide with the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

“Let them have as much time, but don’t grant citizenship in meantime,” Indira Jaising argued.

Mr Mehta then said the fact the rules were notified before an election was irrelevant.

Under this CAA, non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan fleeing religious persecution can seek citizenship. Persons from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from these three nations are eligible if they entered on or before December 31, 2014.

The opposition has slammed the government over the timing of the law’s implementation – four years after it cleared the Parliament and days before a general election. The move is “evidently designed to polarise the elections, especially in West Bengal and Assam”, Mr Ramesh had said.

Trinamool boss and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she doubts the law’s legality and alleged a conspiracy to “snatch citizenship rights”. “BJP leaders say CAA gives you rights. But the moment you apply for citizenship, you become illegal migrants and you will lose your rights. You will lose rights and be taken to detention camps. Please think before you apply,” she said.

The government has trashed the allegations.

Stressing the CAA is not “unconstitutional”, Home Minister Amit Shah accused the opposition of resorting to the “politics of lies”. On the timing question, he said, “BJP made it clear in its 2019 manifesto that it will bring CAA and provide Indian citizenship to refugees (from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan). BJP has a clear agenda and under that promise, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament in 2019. It got delayed due to Covid.”

He also said minorities “need not be afraid because CAA has no provision to take back rights”.

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(Source: NDTV)

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