Supreme Court to hear petitions challenging CAA on Oct 31
A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat directed that the matter will be categorised into cases that relate to various provisions of CAA and others concerning legal provisions pertaining to the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in Assam and Tripura.
A three-judge bench will examine a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), the Supreme Court said on Monday, as it fixed October 31 to set down issues for facilitating arguments in the matter.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat directed that the matter will be categorised into cases that relate to various provisions of CAA and others concerning legal provisions pertaining to the National Register for Citizens (NRC) in Assam and Tripura.
“As projected by various learned counsel, the matters need to be put in different compartments so the submissions can be confined to those segments. The lead matter will then be demarcated and the compilations shall then be prepared after consulting counsel from both sides and digital copies shall be shared with all counsel,” stated the court.
Issuing notices to the Centre and states of Assam and Tripura, the bench said counter-affidavits can be filed in appropriate categories of matters after compartmentalisation is complete.
The court gave four weeks for compartmentalisation of issues On October 31, the case will come up before a two-judge bench, which will then refer to the larger bench.
The case was listed before the two-judge bench after a gap of over a year.
A clutch of over a hundred connected petitions have challenged various CAA provisions which aim at granting fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who came to India because of religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014. The law has been questioned on grounds of religious discrimination and arbitrariness. The petitions last came up for a hearing before the court in June 2021.
In January 2020, the court had issued a notice to the Union government on the petitions but declined to stay the law. It had also restrained all high courts from hearing pleas on CAA till it decides the matter.
In March 2020, the Centre filed its affidavit defending the legislation on the argument that CAA does not violate any fundamental right or affect the legal, democratic and secular rights of any Indian citizens.
The affidavit said history depicts that persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were left without any rights and historical injustice is sought to be remedied by the amendment without taking away or whittling down the rights of any other person.
The claim that CAA is against any particular community is erroneous, unfounded and designedly mischievous, said the affidavit, adding the existing regime for obtaining citizenship of India by foreigners of any country is untouched by CAA.
“The recognition of religious persecution in the particular neighbouring states, which have a specific state religion and long history of religious persecution of minorities, is actually a reinstatement of Indian ideals of secularism, equality and fraternity,” the Centre’s affidavit stated.
It also came out clean on a pan-Indian NRC, maintaining that the exercise is necessary for any sovereign country “for identification of citizens from non-citizens” while claiming that it has been part of the Citizenship Act, 1955 since December 2004.
The petitioners challenging the validity of the law include Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Union Muslim League and its MPs, Lok Sabha MP and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, RJD leader Manoj Jha, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, All Assam Students’ Union and Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman.