A bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi said: “List the matters before the appropriate bench on December 6, 2022.”
The bench granted time to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file response on behalf of Tripura and Assam in the matter. It also nominated two advocates Pallavi Pratap, representing one of the petitioners, and Kanu Agrawal, representing the Centre, to make a common compilation of documents to facilitate smooth hearing in the matters arising out of more than 230 petitions.
A battery of senior advocates A.M. Singhvi, Sidharth Luthra, Kapil Sibal, P. Wilson and Indira Jaising and others appeared on behalf of the petitioners. The top court said all counsel should share written submissions not exceeding three pages.
“Nodal counsel can designate one or two other matters as lead matters,” it added.
In its written response, the Centre has defended the validity of the 2019 Act, saying “CAA is a benign piece of legislation which seeks to provide a relaxation, in the nature of an amnesty, to specific communities from the specified countries with a clear cut-off date”.
“It is submitted that the CAA is a specific amendment which seeks to tackle a specific problem prevalent in the specified countries i.e. persecution on the ground of religion in light of the undisputable theocratic constitutional position in the specified countries, the systematic functioning of such States and the perception of fear that may be prevalent amongst minorities as per the de facto situation in the said countries,” it said.
The MHA said Parliament is competent to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India as provided in Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of India.
It further added the CAA facilitates grant of citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
The MHA said: “The CAA does not impinge upon any existing right that may have existed prior to the enactment of the amendment and further, in no manner whatsoever, seeks to affect the legal, democratic or secular rights of any of the Indian citizens. It is submitted that the existing regime for obtaining citizenship of India by foreigners of any country is untouched by the CAA and remains the same.”
In context of pleas claiming the Act violates the Assam Accord, the affidavit said: “It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that specific concerns with regard to Assam and the other northeastern States have been taken into consideration by the legislature while enacting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the provisions in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 do not in any way violate the provisions of the Assam Accord or section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.”
It further added that the law applied to those who have been exempted by the central government under the provisions of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and other relevant provisions and the rules made under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
The affidavit said that this is a focused law that has a specific cut-off date of December 31, 2014. “Therefore, only such migrants belonging to the six specified communities from the three countries who had entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 will be covered by the provisions of this Amendment Act,” it added.
It further added that migrants already living in India and the amended law does not have any provision which provides for the grant of citizenship to such migrants who would have come after the specified date or on any future date.
The affidavit said CAA does not in any way encourage illegal migration into Assam and therefore the pleas claiming that it has the potential to encourage illegal migration into Assam is unfounded.
The apex court had issued notice to the Centre and had sought its response in January 2020.