Chandigarh: A war of words has ensued between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). A day after Prasad reiterated that all states have a constitutional duty to implement laws passed by Parliament, Singh in an open letter to him said the CAA is a “misguided legislation” that could be converted into a “national security threat”.
Prasad countered this by saying that the “Parliament has constitutional powers to pass laws for the entire country”.
A number of chief ministers, including those of West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, have already announced that the new citizenship law is “unconstitutional” and has no place in their states.
Supporting the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly seeking amendment to the CAA, Singh said Prasad had “entirely missed the point of the resolution”.
“Passing of a resolution by the Legislative Assembly represents the will and wisdom of persons spoken through, legally and validly, their elected representatives,” said Singh.
In the letter, Singh rued that Prasad 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”.
“We have done so,” wrote Singh. “As heads of responsible governments of our states, we are neither naïve nor misguided.”
Singh said the NRC as well as the CAA “would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship”. He raised concern that the CAA “could, in fact, be misused for infiltration into our country, particularly in border states, converting the misguided legislation into a national security threat”.
As the leader of the state, I took my oath under the Constitution @rsprasad Ji. I'm neither naive nor misguided & it's my duty to represent the voice of my people & Centre must pay heed to same. As the law minister, you'd know that #CAA fails the test of the Constitution. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/QKa68CDGi4— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) January 3, 2020
After the Kerala Assembly passed the resolution on December 31, Prasad asserted the law was binding on the entire country and was “perfectly legal” and “constitutional”. He had said that only Parliament has the exclusive powers to pass any law with regard to subjects under the seventh schedule and not any assembly.
According to Singh, by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 of the Constitution has the legislative power to pass laws regarding citizenship, and not the state governments, Prasad has entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala 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,” pointed out Singh.
“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,” he said according to an official statement.
Drawing Prasad’s attention to the Preamble of the Constitution, Singh said as a lawyer he should “know that the word ‘secular’ was one of the three specifically introduced into the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976.
Singh 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 the law and equal protection of laws, irrespective of their religion,” Singh said.
Citing the sensitive border location of Punjab, Singh said, “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 for infiltration into our country, particularly in the border states, converting this misguided legislation into a national security threat,” he said in the letter.
Referring to the NRC, on which “conflicting statements had been emerging from the Government of India, which generates no confidence whatsoever,” Singh claimed that when read along with the CAA, it would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship.
In response to Singh’s letter, Prasad asked him to take a look at Articles 245, 246, 256 of the Constitution, “which clearly enjoins that Parliament has Constitutional power to pass laws for the entire country and it is the duty of every state to act in a manner to ensure compliance. Similarly states can also pass laws for the states”.
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