- Supreme Court says it will hear petitions only after violence stops
- A lawyer petitioned the court to declare Citizenship Act constitutional
- The court said its job is to determine validity of a law
Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, on a petition to declare the citizenship law "constitutional", said today the "country is going through critical times" and such petitions "don't help". Refusing an urgent hearing, the Supreme Court said it would hear the petition only after violence stopped.
Lawyer Vineet Dhanda had petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) constitutional and take stern action against "activists, students, media houses spreading false rumours" on the law.
"How can we declare that an Act passed by the Parliament is constitutional? There is always a presumption of constitutionality. If you had been a student of law at some point time, you should know," responded the Chief Justice.
"This court's job is to determine validity of a law and not declare it as constitutional," said the three-judge bench that includes justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant.
"The country is going through critical times. The endeavour should be for peace. Such petitions don't help," Chief Justice Bobde asserted amid nationwide protests against the new law, which makes religion the criteria for Indian citizenship for the first time.
"As such there is so much of violence," the judges said.
The petitioner had also asked the court to direct the centre to clarify that the Act is not against the spirit of the constitution and is in no sense against any citizen of India.
Protests have swept across the country, especially college campuses, against the Citizenship Act. The government says the citizenship law will help non-Muslim minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - to become Indian citizens easily if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution. But critics fear the CAA discriminates against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.
Over 60 petitions on the law - mostly challenging its validity - have been filed in the Supreme Court.