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CAA pleas: Supreme Court gives Centre 4 weeks to respond

CAA pleas: Supreme Court gives Centre 4 weeks to respond

New Delhi: Hearing over 140 petitions, mostly against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which was passed in both the Houses of Parliament last month, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will set up a five-judge Constitution bench to hear the pleas and not grant any stay on the matter without hearing the Centre. It has given the Centre four weeks to reply on the pleas.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, added that interim order on CAA petitions will be heard by a five-judge constitution bench.

During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal arguing for the Centre said the government had been given copies of only 60 of 143 pleas and hence required more time to respond. Senior advocates A M Singhvi and Kapil Sibal appearing for the petitioners requested the court to postpone the exercise of National Population Register (NPR) for a few months.

To this, the court said it will not grant any stay on CAA without hearing the Centre on the matter. It said that the order on granting any interim relief to petitioner opposing CAA will be passed after four weeks.

Some of the petitions have also sought the withdrawal of the legislation that came into force on January 10. Petitioners include Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Union Muslim League, and its MPs, Lok Sabha MP and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, All Assam Students' Union and Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman.

The IUML submitted in its plea that CAA violates the Right to Equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion on the basis of religion.

The plea filed by Ramesh said the Act is a "brazen attack" on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats "equals as unequal".

The Supreme Court also said that anti-CAA petitions from Assam and Tripura as well as the matters related to Uttar Pradesh, which is going ahead with the implementation of CAA without framing any rules, can be dealt with separately, the bench said.

"Assam's problem with the CAA is quite different from the rest of the country as the earlier cut-off date for citizenship was March 24, 1971, which under CAA now is December 31, 2014," the court maintained.

The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.

President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, turning it into an Act.

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