CAA #3: SC Will Hear Challenges from December 6thCitizenship Amendment Act
Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, along with Justices Ravindra Bhat and Hima Kohli, scheduled final hearings in the challenges to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, for December 6th, 2022. Over 200 petitions challenging the Act have been pending at the Supreme Court since December 2019.
The Citizenship (Amendment Act), 2019 (CAA) amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to grant a liberal path to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Banglades or Pakistan. The Act notably excludes Muslim migrants from following the same citizenship path.
Wide protests erupted all over the country soon after the Union government passed the Act. Critics argued that in combination with the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NCR), the CAA has the potential to deprive many Muslims residing in India of full citizenship. The proposed NRC will likely deprive many persons, both Muslim and non-Muslim, residing in India of citizenship. While excluded non-Muslims will have the opportunity to regain citizenship via the CAA, this will not be the case for Muslims. Hence, the NRC in combination with the CAA may disproportionately exclude Muslim residents of India.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) filed the first petition challenging the constitutionality of the CAA in December 2019. Soon various other litigants followed and there are currently around 200 petitions tagged to the IUML petition. These petitions primarily challenge the CAA for discriminating on the basis of religion. They also contend that it violates the fundamental rights to equality and dignity of illegal migrants under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
SG Mehta Granted Time to File Response For Assam and Tripura
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta explained to the Court that the 200+ petitions could be split into two broad categories. The first set of petitions raised concerns about citizenship in general. The second raised specific questions about the effect of the CAA in Assam and Tripura. He sought time to file responses to the challenges on behalf of Assam and Tripura.
Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi emphasised that despite the petitions raised a common set of issues, despite being large in number. He implored the Bench to select one of the petitions as the lead, to provide a framework for the hearings. Accordingly, the Bench assigned the India Union of Muslim League’s petition, the first petition to be filed in the set, as the lead.
The Bench intends to begin final hearings in the case in December. The next hearing is scheduled for December 6th 2022. Since CJI Lalit would have retired by then, a new Bench will hear the case.