States can’t say won’t implement CAA: Kapil Sibal
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States can’t say won’t implement CAA: Kapil Sibal

January 19, 2020

“Constitutionally, it would be difficult for any Government to say that ‘I will not follow a law passed by Parliament”

Kozhikode: Days after Kerala moved the Supreme Court against the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA amid nationwide protests, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who was speaking at the Kerala Literature Festival in Kozhikode yesterday, said it would be “difficult for any State Government to say that ‘I will not follow a law passed by Parliament.’”

“The States are sending a message to the Central Government that they are unhappy with the citizenship law, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register. But the NRC is based on National Population Register and that has to be implemented by a local registrar, who is appointed by State-level Officers.”

“Basically what is being said is we won’t allow State-level Officers to co-operate with Union of India… practically, I don’t know if that’s possible. It’s a grey area,” the 71-year-old leader said. “Constitutionally, it would be difficult for any Government to say that ‘I will not follow a law passed by Parliament’,” he said.

In a tweet this morning, he called the new citizenship law “unconstitutional” and said the “fight (against it) must go on.” Every State Assembly has the constitutional right to pass a resolution and seek it’s withdrawal. When and if the law is declared to be constitutional by the Supreme Court then it will be problematic to oppose it, he wrote.

Another senior Congress leader echoed Sibal’s views. “If Supreme Court doesn’t interfere (over citizenship law) it’ll remain on statute book. If something is on statute book, you’ve to obey law, else there are consequences,” Salman Khurshid said. “It’s a matter where State Governments have a very serious difference of opinion with Centre. So we would wait for Top Court’s decision,” he added.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, which cleared the Parliament last month, makes religion the test of citizenship in India for the first time. While the government claims that it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan – to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution before 2015, critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the Constitution.

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The National Register of Citizens or NRC, on the other hand, aims to identify illegal immigrants settled in the country. People opposed to the CAA claim that it is a precursor to a nationwide NRC, putting millions of the country’s Muslim citizens at risk of persecution once the entire process is completed.

Several States across the country, including Bihar where NDA ally JDU is in power, have said they won’t implement the NRC. Others like West Bengal and Congress-ruled Punjab have voiced concern against the CAA.

Kerala was the first State to pass a resolution in the State Assembly against the CAA, followed by Punjab. While Left Government in Kerala has already moved the Top Court against the law, Punjab too has said it will challenge the CAA before the Supreme Court.

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