SC Asks Centre To Respond To Applications Seeking Stay On Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024

SC Asks Centre To Respond To Applications Seeking Stay On Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024

SC refused to stay the operation of the Rules that would give effect to the CAA, as sought by a battery of senior advocates representing the petitioners.

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, March 19, 2024, 05:40 PM IST
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Supreme Court of India | File

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to respond within three weeks to applications seeking a stay on implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2024 till the apex court disposes of the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

The apex court, however, refused to stay the operation of the Rules that would give effect to the CAA, as sought by a battery of senior advocates representing the petitioners.

CAA does not take away citizenship of any person: Centre tells SC

The Centre, on its part, told the bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud that the CAA does not take away the citizenship of any person.

The bench, also comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, issued notice to the Centre on the 20 applications seeking a stay on the implementation of the Rules returnable within three weeks.

"We are not expressing any prima facie view We have to hear the petitioners, we have to hear the other side," the bench observed and posted the matter for hearing on April 9.

The Centre had on March 11 paved the way for the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, with the notification of the relevant rules, four years after the contentious law was passed by Parliament to fast-track Indian citizenship for undocumented non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who came to India before December 31, 2014.

No one should be given citizenship until matter subjudice: Petitioners

During the hearing on Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said there are over 230 petitions in the matter, and after the rules came into force, 20 application seeking stay have been filed.

"Just to satisfy your lordships' conscience that there is no prejudice to the petitioners because none of the petitioners as such are affected parties, not that I am challenging the locus, it (CAA) does not take away citizenship of anyone. The law which they are seeking stay of, does not take away citizenship of any person," Mehta said, while seeking four weeks to respond to the applications.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioners, said the Centre should make a statement that pending the hearing, no one will be given citizenship.

"They are entitled to tell us that give us a little time to file a counter. We may give them some time to file response to the applications," the bench said.

Four weeks to file reply is lot of time: Sibal

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also appearing for the petitioners, said,"The problem is, if any process of citizenship starts and somebody gets citizenship, then it would be impossible to reverse it for several reasons and these petitions will become infructuous," Sibal said, adding, "Therefore, that process should not start".

He said four weeks for filing reply to applications for stay was a lot of time.

When Mehta said the petitioners would not be prejudiced if someone is granted or refused citizenship, Jaising said, "That is not the issue. The issue is the constitutionality of law."

One of the advocates asked if a Hindu individual, who was persecuted in Balochistan, has come to India prior to December 2014 and citizenship is granted to him here, how does it affect the right of anyone else.

"Because they will get the right to vote," Jaising shot back.

After the bench said the matter would be heard on April 9, Jaising said, "In the meantime, let them make a statement that they will not grant citizenship to anybody."

Attempts to mislead people over NRC: Mehta

One of the counsel raised the issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and said now applications for grant of citizenship to non-Muslims, hitherto excluded from it, can be processed under the CAA.

"NRC is not an issue before your lordships. Only grant of citizenship under CAA is the issue here," Mehta told the bench, adding that an attempt was made outside the court a few years back to mislead people that they were going to be ousted due to NRC.

At the fag end of Tuesday's hearing, an insistent Jaising said the court can say that any citizenship granted pursuant to these rules will be subject to the outcome of this case.

"They don't even have the infrastructure (for granting citizenship under the new rules) in place," the bench observed.

With the unveiling of the rules on March 11, days ahead of the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, the Modi government kicked off the process of granting Indian citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim migrants -- Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians -- from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The rules came into force with immediate effect, according to a gazette notification.

The contentious CAA had sparked protests in various parts of the country in late 2019 and early 2020 over alleged discriminatory provisions.

While refusing to stay the operation of the law, the apex court had on December 18, 2019 issued notices to the Centre on the pleas challenging the validity of the CAA.

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