The Supreme Court Thursday said it will hear pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act after arguments in the Sabarimala reference matter are over.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said this after senior advocate Kapil Sibal sought urgent hearing of CAA matters while stating that the Centre has not filed a reply in the matter so far. He said the case needs to be listed for hearing at an early date so that it is does not become infructuous.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench, also comprising justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, that the Centre would be filing a reply in a few days. Sibal said some interim orders are required to be passed in the case.
The apex court said it would consider this and granted liberty to Sibal to mention the matter again after the Holi break. A nine-judge bench is re-examining various religious issues, including the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple and mosques, and the practice of female genital mutilation in the Dawoodi Bohra community.
The CAA, which was notified on January 10, grants Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians -- from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who had migrated to India till December 31, 2014 following persecution over their faith.
The top court, on December 18 last year, had decided to examine the constitutional validity of the CAA while refusing to stay its operation.
While hearing a batch of petitions, the top court had on January 22 made it clear that the operation of CAA will not be stayed and gave the government four weeks to respond to the pleas challenging the CAA.
The court had also said that pleas concerning Tripura and Assam as well as the matters related to Uttar Pradesh, which is going ahead with the implementation of CAA without framing any rules, can be dealt with separately.
It had also said that the modalities of hearing the batch of petitions on the CAA will be decided in-chamber and the court may fix them for day-to-day hearing after four weeks.
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.