SC refuses to stay CAA, NPR

Apex court grants center 4 weeks to respond, even as process to update NPR is all set to begin as scheduled.

supreme court

The Supreme Court has, for now, refused to stay the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as it hears close to 140 petitions against the legislation that is seen as discriminatory and unconstitutional by secular and democratic forces across the country. Some parties also challenged the National Population Register (NPR), given how it is intertwined with CAA on account of fundamental questions about the concept of citizenship being at the heart of both, and its adverse impact on minorities not covered under CAA.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna was hearing a batch of petitions against the CAA on Wednesday. Some parties sought temporary postponement of the implementation of the legislation during the pendency of the hearings.

Senior advocate AM Singhvi proposed the formation of a Constitution Bench to hear the petitions, and idea also supported by Kapil Sibal who was also appearing for a petitioner. Sibal also prayed that the process of updating the NPR that begins in April be stayed for three months, a demand also supported by another senior advocate KV Vishwanath. But the court did not grant any such relief.

This means, that the process of updating of the National Population Register will begin as scheduled from April 1. This is what several civil society groups including Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have been raising concerns about, given how the CAA and NPR are virtually inextricable. While the CAA fundamentally alters the idea of citizenship by linking it to religion, the NPR places a greater burden of proof of citizenship on unlettered and marginalized sections of society, many of whom practice faiths that are not covered by the CAA, thereby leaving them vulnerable as they do not have the CAA to fall back upon in case their citizenship is questioned.

CJP secreatry Teesta Setalvad who has been travelling across India to generate awareness about the fundamental flaws in the CAA says, “For over a month since an amendment to the Citizenship Act was hurriedly passed in Parliament, spontaneous protests have erupted across India because these fundamental changes to the law have been correctly seen to be not just plain discriminatory but at serious odds with the fundamentals of equality and non discrimination which are core to Indian nationhood and citizenship.” 

Explaining how CAA and NPR would deal twin body-blows to the ideas of secularism, democracy, citizenship and even nationhood, Setalvad says, “CAA 2019 came on the back of an executive decision to club the 2020 census procedure with an NPR that for the first time has citizenship related questions (birth place and date of parents) etc. There is a fear of disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Indians if documents are held to be the test of citizenship. Much hope was vested in the SC hearings today.

Unfortunately by giving the government time, by shifting the hearings to more than a month and refusing to stay the application of the new law, the Court has disappointed millions. Indians will have to keep the movement alive in creative ways.”

The court also decided to hear petitions from Assam and Tripura separately. On December 18, the SC had issued notice to the center on 60 anti-CAA petitions that had been filed till then. Now, 80 more petitions have been filed since then and the center sought time to respond to them.

Accordingly, the CJI directed that notice be issued on all matters and gave the center four weeks to reply. According to Live Law, the court said, “After 4 weeks we will list it for orders. Give us a list of all the categories of matters. Small matters we can hear in the chamber”.




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