Activists of left student organizations light torches during a protest against a new citizenship law in Kolkata, India, Dec 17, 2019. (PHOTO / AP)
NEW DELHI — India's top court Wednesday issued a notice to country's federal government over the controversial new citizenship law that triggered massive countrywide protests, officials said.
The petitioners claim the new citizenship law violates the basic structure of the constitution and that religion can not become the basis for determining citizenship.
Around 60 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the citizenship law. The petitioners were demanding a stay on the new law passed by Indian parliament last week.
“We want a stay order in the CAA case,” said Kapil Sibal, a lawyer for petitioners who challenged the law in court, adding it was in conflict with parts of the Indian constitution guaranteeing equality to all, Reuters reports.
"A three-judge bench of Supreme Court today in a brief hearing declined to stay implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), saying they will have to see whether the Act has to be stayed," an official said. "The court has set Jan 22, 2020, as the next date of hearing in this matter."
Massive protests are going on across several India states and inside universities against the new citizenship law.
A number of opposition parties, activists and members of civil society have urged the Supreme Court to put a stay on the new law.
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"The petitioners claim the new citizenship law violates the basic structure of the constitution and that religion can not become the basis for determining citizenship," a senior lawyer said.
The law aims at granting citizenship to illegal immigrants belonging to six religions - Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Parsi and Christianity - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it has kept out Muslim immigrants from applying for citizenship.
Opposition parties and civil society members in India criticize the new law as contrary to secular principles enshrined in India's constitution as it excludes Muslims.
With this new law, the government would grant Indian citizenship to those non-Muslim immigrants who had entered the country illegally until Dec 31, 2014. People in the northeastern states fear granting of citizenship to immigrants would endanger their status.
The law initially triggered massive violent protests in India's northeast and West Bengal. Four people were killed in police firing in Assam.
With input from Reuters
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