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Amid the row over the Centre's move to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) weeks before Lok Sabha election, the Supreme Court is hearing a batch of 237 petitions challenging the law. A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra is hearing the matter.

Among the petitioners are Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a political party primarily based in Kerala, and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Trinamool leader Mahua Moitra and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.  

The day after the Centre notified CAA rules, the two organisations approached the Supreme Court, seeking a pause on the implementation of the law. They termed CAA "discriminatory" against the Muslim community.

Back in 2019, when the Citizenship Amendment Bill cleared the Parliament, multiple petitions had been filed against it. But the court had not paused its implementation because the rules had not been notified. On Friday, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal told the court that there was no question of a pause back then since the rules were not notified. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta then said that the fact that the rules were notified before the elections was irrelevant.

Under this law, non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan fleeing religious persecution can seek Indian citizenship. Persons from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, are eligible to seek citizenship under CAA.

The Opposition has slammed the Narendra Modi government over the timing of the law's implementation - four years after it cleared the Parliament. The move is "evidently designed to polarise the elections, especially in West Bengal and Assam", party leader Jairam Ramesh has said.

Trinamool Congress chief and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she doubts the legality of CAA and alleged a conspiracy to "snatch citizenship rights". "BJP leaders say CAA gives you rights. But the moment you apply for citizenship, you become illegal migrants and you will lose your rights. You will lose rights and be taken to detention camps. Please think before you apply," she said.

The Centre has trashed the Opposition's allegations. Stressing that the CAA is not "unconstitutional", Home Minister Amit Shah has accused the Opposition of resorting to the "politics of lies". On the timing of the law's implementation, he said, "BJP made it clear in its 2019 manifesto that it will bring CAA and provide Indian citizenship to refugees (from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan). BJP has a clear agenda and under that promise, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament in 2019. It got delayed due to Covid."

He has also said that minorities of the country "need not be afraid because CAA has no provision to take back the rights of any citizen".

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