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India: Top court refuses to stay citizenship law

– Supreme Court in first hearing on petitions challenging law gives four-week time to government to respond

By Shuriah Niazi

New Delhi (AA) – India’s top court on Wednesday refused to stay the contentious new citizenship law without hearing the government.

It has granted four weeks to the government to reply to about 143 petitions, challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

During the hearing, Attorney General Kottayan Katankot Venugopal said the government had been given copies of only 60 of 143 pleas and hence required more time to respond.

Many petitioners urged the Supreme Court to postpone the implementation of the CAA.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, Justices Abdul Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna agreed to consider the petitions from Assam and Tripura separately because of the special grounds in those cases.

The new Act grants citizenship to non-Muslims of three neighboring countries viz. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Critics see the new law as unconstitutional and discriminatory against Muslims.

The apex court has also asked the High Courts to restrain from taking any pleas against the CAA till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court.

Noted lawyer Kapil Sibal arguing on behalf of petitioners had asked the court to put on hold the National Public Registry (NPR) process for at least three months, which is scheduled to start from April.

He said that if any person is marked as 'doubtful citizen' during the NPR process, it will create problems not just for Muslims, but Hindus also.

Another lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi informed the court that the northern state of Uttar Pradesh had already started the CAA process even without framing the rules.

He disclosed that four million people have been already marked doubtful in 19 districts of Uttar Pradesh.

“They have almost lost right to vote,” he added while seeking the intervention of the apex court.

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