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India’s Supreme Court refuses to stay citizenship law

India’s Supreme Court has sought government response to petitions filed against new citizenship legislation after it refused to stay the law that has sparked widespread opposition and protests across the country.

The top court on Wednesday gave the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi four weeks to reply to a batch of 143 pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed last month.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde said it may refer the petitions to a larger constitution bench.

The top court had said earlier that it would hear the challenges to the law “once the violence stops”, referring to incidents during the protests.

Nearly 30 people across the country have been killed in the protests amid allegations of police brutality.

Critics say the law passed in December is discriminatory to Muslims – India’s largest minority – as it makes faith the basis for obtaining citizenship.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist government says the law aims to give persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries the right to apply for citizenship.

The legislation has provoked weeks of protests, with critics calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional as it excludes Muslims from these countries.

Home Minister Amit Shah, a close aide of Modi, has ruled out rollback of the law.

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