After the controversial decision to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and the determined protests that have followed, India has been on edge. With petitions contesting the constitutionality of the CAA, all eyes have been trained on the Supreme Court.
On 22nd January, the first hearing for the whopping batch of 144 petitions regarding the CAA was held. Out of the 144, 142 please were against the CAA, and two in favour.
While the SC has not declared a verdict as of yet, the hearing resulted in a few notable points that hint towards how things shall progress. Here's everything important from yesterday's hearing on the CAA petitions.
No Stay On CAA
The SC refused to stay the CAA, NRC, or NPR before hearing out the Centre on these matters. Hence, the government is free to carry out proceedings for any of these until the next hearing, at least. The hearings have been adjourned for the time being as the Central Government claimed to have only received 60 of the 144 petitions, hence needing time to respond to the rest.
Assam, Tripura Pleas May Be Considered Separately
Due to the conflict of the CAA terms with the Assam accord and Tripura Peace Accord, the pleas related to these states may be heard separately. For all petitions related to Assam and Tripura, the central government has been given a window of two weeks to file a reply.
The Assam Accord states that foreigners who entered the state after March 21, 1971, are to be deported. Similarly, the Tripura Peace Accord requires all Bangladesh foreign nationals who entered the state after 1975 to be deported. However, the CAA would shift these cut off dates to 2014 for the communities specified, hence violating these accords. North-Easterners fear a dilution of their culture and demographics due to mass naturalisation of refugees and immigrants, especially if they choose to then shift to tribal areas with indigenous peoples.
All Other Petitions To Be Heard After Four Weeks
For all petitions unrelated to Assam and Tripura, the Supreme Court gave the Central Government a 4-week window to file replies. As previously noted, during this window, any of the procedures of CAA, NRC, or NPR can be implemented. However, the SC also refused to freeze new petitions regarding the matter, despite the Centre's requests.
The SC has also directed High Courts not to hear any pleas on the CAA until the SC has made a decision or final order.
Constitution Bench May Judge The Hearings
Despite not explicitly referring the CAA petitions to a Constitution Bench, the SC said a new five-judge Constitution Bench shall be set up to hear the matter. This indicates a strong likelihood that the petitions shall indeed go to a Constitution Bench rather than the three-judge panel of yesterday's hearing, due to the importance and tension around the matter.