Supreme court
Supreme court

The Supreme Court on Monday posted for hearing on October 31 a batch of petitions challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and sought the Centre’s response on some fresh pleas.

A bench of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat observed it would refer the CAA case for hearing to a three-judge bench. The bench asked the Solicitor General’s office to identify and segregate the petitions so that submissions can easily be advanced and confined.

“The office of Solicitor General shall prepare a complete list of the matters pertaining to these challenges. The matters shall be put in different compartments depending upon challenge raised in individual petitions,” the apex court stated in its order.

At least 220 petitions against the CAA were filed before the top court.

The plea first came up for hearing in the Supreme Court on 18 December 2019. It was last heard on 15 June 2021.

CAA was passed by Parliament on 11 December 2019 and it was met with protests all across the country. The CAA came into effect on 10 January 2020.

Kerala-based Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi, Congress leader Debabrata Saikia, NGOs Rihai Manch and Citizens Against Hate, Assam Advocates Association, and law students, among others, had filed a plea before the top court challenging the Act.

In 2020 Kerala government had also filed a suit in the apex court becoming the first state to challenge the CAA.

The law fast-tracks the process of granting citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and took refuge in India on or before 31 December 2014. The top court had earlier issued notice to the Centre and refused to pass an interim order staying the law without hearing the Centre.

In March 2020, the Centre filed its affidavit before the apex court saying that the CAA Act is a “benign piece of legislation” which does not affect the “legal, democratic or secular rights” of any of the Indian citizens.

The CAA does not violate any fundamental right, the Centre had said, while terming the legislation legal, asserted that there was no question of it violating constitutional morality.

The petitions contended that the Act, which liberalises and fast-tracks the grant of citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, promotes religion-based discrimination.

The amendments have also been challenged on several other grounds, including violation of secularism, Articles 21 (right to life), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 19 (right to freedom), as well as provisions on citizenship and constitutional morality.

The plea filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has said that the Act is a “brazen attack” on core fundamental rights envisaged under the Constitution and treats “equals as unequal”.

The 2019 Act amended the Citizenship Act, 1955, which makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship if they (a) belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities, and (b) are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. It only applies to migrants who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. As per the amendment, certain areas in the Northeast are exempted from the provision.