New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre on fresh petitions challenging the validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and indicated it may refer the matter, of over 200 petitions against the law, to a three-judge bench.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, directed the Centre to file response on the petitions challenging the CAA and also directed the Assam and Tripura government to file response on petitions having state specific question in connection with the CAA.
The top court indicated that it may refer the matter to a three-judge bench and scheduled the hearing on October 31.
Counsel, representing various petitioners, submitted that the court should make a schedule to hear the matter and pointed out towards segregation, as there are two sets of matters. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, agreed with the suggestion.
In order to streamline hearing on over 200 petitions, the top court said the petitions needed to be put in different compartments so that submissions could be easily advanced and confined to the challenges arising in respect of such segments.
It said that the SG's office would prepare a complete list of the matters pertaining to these challenges and they would be put in different compartments depending upon the challenge raised in individual petitions. It further added that the Centre would file appropriate responses with respect to segments of challenges and the exercise should be done in four weeks.
The top court also issued notices in all fresh petitions against CAA, which grants citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who had come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
In December 2019, the apex court had declined to stay the operation of the law and issued notice to Centre on the petitions against the Act. It had then sought response from the Centre in January 2020, however due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the matter could not come up for regular hearing before the court.
The then President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, 2019, turning it into an Act. The petitions alleged the Bill was against the basic structure of the Constitution.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), one of the petitioners against the Act, claimed that the fundamental Right to Equality is violated by the Act and it intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion based on religion. The plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh argued the Act is a "brazen attack" on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution.