NEW DELHI: Several Opposition-ruled states have announced that they will not allow the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now an Act after President’s assent) to be implemented, but sources in the government, as well as legal experts, told this newspaper that the states had no power to refuse implementation of a newly enacted central law.
Sources in the ministries of Law and Home Affairs said the Act is applicable to all states and Union Territories and they could be taken to court if they don’t implement it. “The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, comes under seventh schedule of the Constitution and is automatically applicable to all states,” said an official source.
The statement came after the several chief ministers announced the law was “unconstitutional” and had no place in their respective states.
“These are just political statements. States have no power to stop implementation of a central law. They can be taken to court if they don’t implement it. It would be illegal on their part,” said a government official.
“The chief ministers who claim they will not implement the law are terribly ignorant of the Constitution or are lying to the public,” said noted advocate K V Dhananjay, who is an expert on constitutional matters.
Dhananjay said under Articles 256 and 257, it is not open to any state government to defy a central law. The best they can do is to file writ petitions in the Supreme Court and hope for some relaxation from the court.
“The SC would be forced to take such challenges from the states more seriously than the current set of petitions filed by MPs, NGOs, political parties, migrants and individuals.”
However, he pointed out that the CAA, unlike other central laws like the Income Tax Act, which are implemented almost exclusively in each state by the central cadre public servants, will require massive participation by public servants belonging to the state as well in view of lakhs of citizenship applications that could come.
“So, should any CM issue any instruction, whether orally or in writing, to any state cadre public servant to defy this central law, the governor could warn the chief minister. If the CM continues with his/her defiance, the governor will have no option but to dismiss the state government and request the Centre to impose President’s Rule,” Dhananjay said.
Supreme Court advocate Sanjay Singh, too, said refusing to adopt a central law made by Parliament was illegal. However, the states/UTs could seek legal remedies, he added.
SC lawyer Anas Tanvir said, “CAA doesn’t require the state government’s approval. However, if states refuse to conduct NRC or set up foreigners’ tribunal, then it’ll be close to impossible for the Union to get its diktat implemented.”