Jan. 22 (UPI) -- After taking a month to let the issue settle, India's Supreme Court declined Wednesday to strike down a controversial law that offers citizenship only to non-Muslim Middle Eastern migrants.
The high court in New Delhi last month punted the legal challenge to the law, which critics say discriminates against 200 Muslim migrants in India, to allow the government time to resolve opponents' complaints. Wednesday, it again refused to intervene and gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government four more weeks to respond to petitions that argue the law is unconstitutional.
The court's decision angered opponents, who wanted the high court to strike down the law rather than giving the government another opportunity to settle complaints.
The law, passed last year, allows a path to citizenship for refugees of nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who fled their native lands due to religious persecution and settled in India before 2015. The offer does not stand, however, for Muslim migrants of those countries.
The Hindu-majority government has argued the law was created to benefit minority refugees.
India Attorney General K.K. Venugopal asked justices for the delay to respond to the complaints, noting the government has received only a portion of the petitions so far.
Critics denounced the high court's decision.
"Why does the government need four weeks to reply to them? Shouldn't the government demonstrate a willingness to seek a judicial closure in the matter," Sanjay Jha, a spokesman of the opposition Congress Party, said. "We believe that the matter will be heard by a constitutional bench which will finally take a call. But we must remember that justice delayed is justice denied."
India has faced almost constant criticism over the last few months, after it also rescinded autonomy status to the Muslim-majority Kashmir region last summer. The move led the government to suspend phone and Internet service in the region, with officials arguing terrorists could use them to organize or plot.