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Yet to decide

Yet to decide

The curtain raised to perhaps the most important hearing in present times but there was nothing decisive about the day. Petitions seeking a stay on the implementation of the citizenship amendment act could not get the relief they sought. As many as 143 petitions challenging the controversial legislation were up for hearing but the Supreme Court refused to even provide any interim relief before hearing out the government on the matter. On request for time in filing reply to all petitions, the top court granted a period of four weeks to the government. The Chief Justice of India-led bench also opined that a 5-judge Constitution bench will hear the matter once the government files its reply. Labelling the matter as most important, the CJI asserted that petitions challenging the CAA will be scheduled for a day-to-day hearing basis after four weeks. The bench also opined that pleas by Assam, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh can be heard in be dealt with separately. Assam and Tripura, having distinct agreements with the Centre regarding the preservation of indigenous people, have been categorised separately with the Court also urging for a list of cases from these states. While the nation has been on the edge against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Supreme Court heard petitions regarding the same for the first time. The wait on Court's behalf before taking up matters for hearing in itself is remarkable given the widespread protests against the legislation in various parts of the country. The wait, however, only left buffer time for Centre to adamantly go ahead with its implementation — as read a gazette notification — from January 10 and for the dissenting people to file more pleas challenging it. Kerala and Punjab passed resolutions against the new citizenship law, while West Bengal and Rajasthan are mulling over doing the same. Kerala took an additional step by filing a suit against the Centre in Supreme Court under Article 131, invoking the latter's 'original' jurisdiction. All this, while protests incessantly continue in pockets. What is most intriguing at this juncture is the time sought by the Attorney General. In four weeks, the Centre has to come up with possible arguments for two separate categories of petitions seeking an ultimate common relief: declaration of CAA as unconstitutional. Apex Court has granted four weeks to the Centre for filing reply at a time when Union Home Minister Amit Shah has openly challenged opposition leaders to a debate over CAA. In his address in Lucknow on Tuesday, the Union Home Minister adamantly asserted that "the government is not going back on the CAA...those who want to protest may continue doing so". Ignoring scores of protestors raising their concerns and instead advocating the exact opposite is not very democratic. People expect their elected representatives to lend ears and resolve their concerns. And, there cannot be any bias between people from here or people from there. People are people, and every last one counts when it comes to voting. Be it the agitating students from universities, women stepping out from households or anyone, there is no disparity between people. Advocating about how the new citizenship law is about granting one and not taking away one, the Union Minister did not address the fact that the law discriminates against Muslims. It is perhaps the discriminatory nature of the law that made BJP's ally, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) contribute to the passing of the anti-CAA resolution with the Congress government in Punjab. In fact, when asked by BJP to reconsider its stand on the CAA, SAD decided to withdraw from contesting the Delhi Assembly election due on February 8. SAD chose to uphold the ethos of Sikhism that refuses to discriminate against Muslims over its alliance with BJP. And, its decision to not contest is also a setback for BJP.

Addressing concerns of people should have taken precedence over the advocacy for the law. This highlights the lack of regard for a government towards its own people. If not for the Supreme Court, these people would not have any place to submit their dissent. Hence, it is important for the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the pressing need for deliberating over the matter and arriving at a rational answer. In its scrutiny of the law, the top court has the job to identify the problematic features of the law and either subject them to another amendment, or repeal them in totality. If there was no flaw, there would not have been protests of this scale,

and for so long. While judicial cases take time, constitutional cases can see an expedited hearing and verdict. Currently, everything rests on Centre's reply but in the meantime, the Court has time to deliberate over the law and come up with its own prima facie understanding of the law; why people are agitating.

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