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No Stay on Citizenship Law & NPR as SC Gives Centre 4 Weeks to Reply, Restrains HCs from Hearing CAA Pleas

File photo of the Supreme Court. (Image Source: PTI)

File photo of the Supreme Court. (Image Source: PTI)

The bench said it will hear the petitions pertaining to Assam and Tripura separately as the problem with the CAA in these two states is different from rest of the country.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the government four weeks to respond to petitions challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act, making it clear that it would not stay the contentious legislation or the National Population Register (NPR) without hearing the Centre.

Hearing a batch of over 140 petitions, an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde issued notice to the Centre and restrained all high courts from hearing pleas on CAA till it decides on the petitions.

The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, said it will hear the petitions pertaining to Assam and Tripura separately as the problem with the CAA in these two states is different from rest of the country.

"The matter is uppermost in everybody's mind. We will form a five-judge bench and then list the case," the court said.

Asserting that it will not grant any stay on the CAA without hearing the Centre on the matter, it said, "Will pass order on granting any interim relief to petitioner opposing CAA after four weeks."

The court also made it clear it will not pass any ex-parte order without hearing the Centre on staying the operation of the CAA and exercise of the National Population Register (NPR).

It said the earlier cut-off date for citizenship in Assam was March 24, 1971, and noted that it has been extended till December 31, 2014, under CAA.

The petitions concerning Tripura and Assam can be dealt with separately, the bench said.

The bench said it will decide in-chamber the modalities of hearing the batch of petitions on the CAA and may fix them for day-to-day hearing after four weeks.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, told the bench the government has been given copies of around 60 pleas out of the petitions.

He said it wanted time to respond to all the pleas.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal urged the bench to put on hold operation of the CAA and postpone the NPR exercise for the moment.

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.

Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA. Among those who have filed pleas are the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.

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

The petition had alleged that the government's CAA was against the basic structure of the Constitution and intended to explicitly discriminate against Muslims as the Act extended benefits only to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

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 other petitioners include the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the Peace Party, the CPI, NGOs Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students.