THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/CHANDIGARH: The Kerala and Punjab governments on Thursday categorically stated that they will not implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).
While Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a state government can't be forced to implement the legislation even though citizenship falls under the Union List, his Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh said his government would not allow the legislation to be implemented as it is a direct assault on India’s secular character.
However, Constitutional experts pointed out that a state has no relevant role to play as far as the CAB is concerned. The stand taken by the Kerala chief minister has no legal relevance.
As citizenship falls under the Union List, a state government can't say that it will not implement the legislation, they said.
Talking to Express, former Kerala High Court judge B Kamal Pasha echoed the experts. He said, "Such a statement might have come on the spur of the moment. As citizenship falls under the Union List, a state government can't say that it will not implement it."
Noted legal expert Advocate Kaleeshwaram Raj also said the statement by Pinarayi is erroneous as neither a state government nor a state legislature can question a subject that falls under the Centre's domain.
"As per legal standards, they are not competent to decide on such matters. A state government could instead register its disagreement with the bill or could endorse the protest. But it can't step aside from the duty of implementing it," he said.
However, both Justice Kamal Pasha and advocate Kaleeshwaram Raj are of the view that the Bill is unconstitutional. According to Justice Kamal Pasha, as the bill itself is an unconstitutional one, a state government can protect its citizens through various means. It should explore such options.
Kaleeshwaram Raj said since the bill itself violates the right to equality, any citizen or group of citizens or political parties can approach the court.
In Punjab, CM Amarinder Singh said the Parliament had no authority to pass a law that defiled the Constitution and violated its basic principles and fundamental rights of the people of India. He declared the Bill as 'null and void’ on account of the fact that it was against the tenets and values contained in the Constitution.
Pointing to the divisive nature of the law, Amarinder said any legislation that seeks to divide the people of the country on religious lines was illegal and unethical, and could not be allowed to sustain.
It was the duty of an elected government to safeguard the cherished values ingrained in the Constitution and not destroy them, he said, making it clear that he would not let such a Constitutional violation take place under his regime.
“How can you leave out a large section of the Indian population from the protection they have been getting since we declared India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty…,” asked Amarinder, pointing out that by linking citizenship with religion, CAB would undermine the very foundations of the nation.
“What if other countries, where Indians are settled in large numbers and have acquired their citizenship, decide to bring in similar legislations? What will happen to those Indians if the countries of their stay decide to withdraw their citizenship on account of their religious beliefs?” asked Amarinder.
The move, said Amarinder, was retrograde and regressive, and sought to take India back from the progressive charter mandated by its Constitution. Instead of using brute majority in Parliament to push the Bill through, the central government should have discussed the matter with all parties and tried to evolve a consensus, if at all it felt the legislation was in the interest of India and its people, he added.