Laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens
Taking exception to the Union Law & Justice Minister’s remarks on the subject, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has come out in support of the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly seeking amendment to the controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA), terming it the voice of the people, and urging the Centre to heed the same.
In an open letter to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Chief Minister countered the former’s recent remarks in which he had “discounted the position being taken by some of the States against the CAA” and “called upon such politicians to seek appropriate legal advice before taking such a stand.”
Asserting that the said States had already taken the necessary legal advice, Captain Amarinder said the Kerala Assembly’s resolution represented the will and wisdom of the people, as spoken through their elected representatives. “Such MLAs represent the voice of the people at large,” he said, adding that it was not only a matter of Parliamentary privilege but the constitutional duty of those representatives to make known such views.
Declaring that as heads of responsible state governments “we are neither naive nor misguided”, the Chief Minister said laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens, and like all powers, even the Parliamentary power was coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.
According to Captain Amarinder, by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 had the legislative power to pass laws as regards Citizenship, and not the State Governments, the Law Minister had entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly. “It has not passed any citizenship law. It urges the Government of India (through Parliament where it now has a majority) to amend the CAA,” he pointed out.
“Surely, you, both as Minister of Law as well as a lawyer, know that the resolution is rightly directed, as it is Parliament which must amend/repeal such law based on a proposal/ Bill mooted by the Government of India,” Captain Amarinder quipped.
The Chief Minister also took a dig to the Law Minister’s remarks reminding the States of their "constitutional" duty to implement such laws. The leaders of such States had won their elections and taken oaths of office under the Constitution of India, he noted.
Drawing the Minister’s attention to the Preamble of the Constitution, Captain Amarinder reminded him that he was a lawyer, and should “know that the word ‘Secular’ was one of the three words specifically introduced into the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. Given that the very fabric of our Constitution requires secular conduct, the Minister was actually asking the States to abide by the very foundation of the Constitution, he observed.
Captain Amarinder dubbed the Union Minister’s continuous disclaimer that the CAA does not in any manner affect Indian Muslims as “a public /political stand which you are forced to take out of compulsion of office.”
“Surely (and again as a lawyer yourself) you would be alive to the raging debate that the CAA fails the test of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees to all persons equality before law and equal protection of laws, irrespective of their religion,” said the Chief Minister. If the CAA seeks to protect religious persecution, then such protection should be available to persons of all religious minorities, from all countries where people may face religious persecution, he emphasized, citing the example of Uganda as a country from where Hindus were ousted during the Idi Amin regime.
Citing the sensitive border location of Punjab, the Chief Minister also expressed another serious concern with respect to the CAA, noting that the Act’s language “does even require that any illegal migrant seeking its benefit need be of Indian origin in any manner.” All they have to be is from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, he pointed out, adding that this could be a citizen or even a resident, or even a temporary person in transit through these countries.
“Since the CAA has no requirement of being of Indian origin or having to prove any such origins, this means that any person claiming to be of the six religions could simply apply in terms of the amended law, prove entry on/before the cut-off date and be eligible for citizenship. This could in fact be misused the for infiltration into our country, particularly in the border states, converting this misguided legislation into a national security threat,” said Captain Amarinder in his letter.
Referring to the NRC, on which conflicting statements had been emerging from the Government of India, “which generates no confidence whatsoever,” Captain Amarinder pointed out that when read along with the CAA it would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship. “The fear that laws can be mutilated, shredded and discarded overnight to suit political objectives is naturally a legitimate concern of many right minded citizens of our country,” he added.