The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear a batch of more than 140 petitions on the Citizenship Amendment Act, ANI reported. A bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna will hear the pleas – most of which have challenged the controversial law. The judges will also hear the Centre’s petition for citizenship law-related pleas filed in the Delhi High Court to be transferred to the top court.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 last year and notified on January 10, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act, which has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, triggered nationwide protests. At least 26 people died during demonstrations last month – all in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam.
On January 9, the Supreme Court said it would not hear the petitions against the Act until violent protests came to an end. In December, the court had asked the Centre to respond to 60 of the petitions challenging the law by the second week of January.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh filed one of the petitions. In it, he argued that the law had created an “unconstitutional exclusionary regime” that treats “equals as unequal”. All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi moved the top court to preserve India’s “plural, secular, constitutional” democracy. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also challenged the amendments’ constitutional validity last month, a day after the law was challenged by the Indian Union Muslim League.
The petitioners against the citizenship law have claimed that the “benefits” for immigrants fleeing religious persecution would end up dividing them on the basis of faith and nationality of origin. One petition was filed by five activists and academics – Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Nihil Dey, Irfan Habib and Prabhat Patnaik – and another by the Democratic Youth Federation of India.
On January 14, Kerala became the first state to challenge the constitutional validity of the Act. Most states not ruled by the BJP have refused to implement it, with Kerala and Punjab passing resolutions against it. However, the Centre and Union ministers have said such resolutions are unconstitutional since the law has already been passed by Parliament.
Shutdown in the North East
Meanwhile, students’ organisations in the North East issued a call for a complete shutdown of colleges and universities in the region on Wednesday, The Hindu reported. These organisations are part of the North East Students’ Organisation, or NESO. The All Assam Students’ Union, which is a petitioner in the case in the Supreme Court, is also part of NESO.
The strike will be observed at Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, North Eastern Hill University, Tezpur University, Assam Women’s University, Assam Agricultural University, Nagaland University, Rajiv Gandhi University, and North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology.
The student fraternity in these universities issued a joint statement on Tuesday, hoping that the Supreme Court will consider the “unconstitutional and contentious CAA and its ill repercussions” on the indigenous people in the North East.