NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court turned down a plea on Wednesday to stop the implementation of a new citizenship law based on religion that has set off violent protests in the country, but said it would hold hearings next month on the sweeping measure.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) makes it easier for non-Muslims from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to gain Indian citizenship. Thousands of people have protested, saying the law is anti-Muslim and the latest in a series of measures by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to marginalize the community.
“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. Supreme Court Chief Justice S.A. Bobde refused requests to hold off the implementation of the law, which came into effect last week. The court will however hear petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law on Jan. 22. Modi’s government says the law was intended to address the persecution of minorities in India.