The Supreme Court on Monday granted three weeks to Assam and Tripura governments to file their responses to certain pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and fixed December 6 for hearing a batch of petitions on the issue.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Uday Umesh Lalit appointed two lawyers - Pallavi Pratap and Kanu Agarawal – as nodal counsel to assist it in ensuring the smooth handling of over 230 pleas by preparing a common compilation and deciding the petitions that can be treated as the lead ones.
The bench, also comprising justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi took note of the submissions of senior advocate Kapil Sibal that the petition filed by Indian Union of Muslim League can be treated as the lead matter as the pleadings in this case was complete.
"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if two-three matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance...
"We have been apprised that the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by advocate Pallavi Pratap. We, therefore, appoint her and Kanu Agarawal as nodal counsel,” the order said.
It said that the nodal counsel would consider designating some other matters as lead ones, keeping in mind the grounds of geographical and religious classifications among other factors.
It said the pleas concerning issues of Assam and the Northeast states can be treated separately as one of the lead cases.
The bench asked the lawyers to share the compilation of records digitally among themselves and file written submissions not exceeding three pages.
“Assam and Tripura shall file their replies within three weeks... List these matters before the appropriate court on December 6, 2022,” the bench said.
In a fresh affidavit filed on Sunday, the Centre urged the Supreme Court to dismiss pleas challenging the validity of the CAA, stressing that the law does not encourage “illegal migration” in
Assam or any future influx of foreigners in the country.
It also vehemently defended the exclusion of certain areas of Assam and other Northeastern states from the application of the CAA, saying it has been done to “protect the ethnic/linguistic rights” of the natives and this was “not discriminatory”.
It is a “focused law” that grants citizenship only to members of six specified communities who came on or before December 31, 2014 and does not affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any Indian, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a detailed 150-page affidavit.
Also, the existing regime for obtaining citizenship by foreigners of any country continues to be untouched by the present law and they remain the same, it said.
The contentious CAA had sparked protests in various parts of the country in late 2019 and early 2020 over alleged discriminatory provisions. While refusing to stay the operation of the law,
the top court had on December 18, 2019, issued notices to the Centre on the pleas.
The amended law seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.
The IUML, one of the petitioners who have challenged the CAA, said in its plea that it violates the fundamental Right to Equality and intends to grant citizenship to a section of illegal immigrants by making an exclusion based on religion.
After Parliament cleared it, then President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on December 12, 2019, turning it into an Act.
The plea by IUML seeks an interim stay on the operation of CAB and the Foreigner Amendment (Order), 2015, and Passport (Entry Into Rules), Amendment Rules, 2015.
Several petitions have been filed challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA, including by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, RJD leader Manoj Jha, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi.
Other petitioners include Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, All Assam Students Union, Peace Party, CPI, NGOs 'Rihai Manch' and Citizens Against Hate, advocate M L Sharma, and law students.