- Supreme Court issues notice to government
- Tells to respond to 60 petitions on amended Citizenship Act
- Protests break out across country over new law
The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the centre asking it to respond to 59 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the controversial new citizenship law. In a brief hearing this morning a three-judge top court bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde also declined to stay implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and said: "we will have to see whether the Act has to be stayed". The bench - which includes Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant - has set January 22 as the next date of hearing.
During the hearing the court also asked Attorney General KK Venugopal, who was representing the centre, to consider using audio-visual medium to make citizens aware about CAA.
On Tuesday Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Narendra Modi government would not back down in the face of nationwide protests.
"Come what may, the Modi government will ensure these refugees get Indian citizenship and live as Indians with honour," Mr Shah said at a rally in Delhi's Dwarka, even as fresh protests against the law broke out in east Delhi's Seelampur.
In recent days both Mr Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi - the senior-most leaders of the ruling BJP - have been fire-fighting protests against the new law. The PM appealed to students from an election rally in Jharkhand yesterday.
As protests, some violent, rage across the country over the CAA, a number of opposition parties and members of civil society have moved the Supreme Court asking it to move against the new law. These include the Indian Union Muslim League and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) - a key ally of the ruling BJP in Assam, where violent protests broke out even as the bill was being debated in parliament.
On Monday former Assam Chief Minister and AGP MLA Prafulla Kumar Mahanta reminded the centre that "India is a secular country. No one is above the law and not above the Constitution. When the Constitution was adopted, it was said that India is a secular country," Mr Mahanta said.
Petitions challenging the citizenship law claim it violates the basic structure of the Constitution and that religion cannot become the basis for determining citizenship. They also say that admitting illegal migrants as citizens, based on religion is violative of right to life. The government is duty-bound to provide equal treatment to members of all faiths, the petitions state.
Opposition parties repeatedly raised similar points while the bill was in parliament - the Congress's Anand Sharma had said it "hurts the very soul of the Constitution". In an impassioned speech Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien lashed out at the centre and accused them of working from a "Nazi copybook".
The opposition has also alleged the law is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality for all and equal treatment before the law, regardless of their citizenship status.
The top court also heard a petition by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay against the burning of five empty trains in Bengal during protests against the citizenship law.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act makes it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to get Indian citizenship, providing they arrived in India before December 31, 2014. The law also excludes tribal areas from certain parts of the North East and areas (including the entire state of Manipur) notified under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system.
With input from PTI