Unless the SC repeals the CAA, states will have to implement it
State governments have made their political point. They must now step back and wait for the SC’s order.Updated: Jan 19, 2020 20:20 IST
The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) has polarised Indian politics. While rallies, both in support and against the legislation, have dominated the public sphere, a key fault line has emerged between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Centre and states on one hand, and states governed by Opposition parties on the other. The Kerala and Punjab legislative assemblies have passed resolutions rejecting the CAA on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, and, therefore, they are not under obligation to implement it. This has come against the backdrop of several other states ruled by non-National Democratic Alliance parties rejecting the CAA, although their assemblies are yet to pass any resolutions to the effect. The Congress convened a meeting of the Opposition parties on the issue and declared they would staunchly oppose the Act. The Centre has argued that the Act conforms to all constitutional provisions, including the right to equality.
It is important to go back to first principles here. States have a right to challenge legislation and policies. If they believe that a certain Act is unconstitutional, they also have a right to go to the Supreme Court (SC) — and indeed, several petitioners, including the Kerala government, have challenged the CAA in the court. But at the same time, it is crucial to respect the division of powers as laid out in the Constitution.
The fact is that the CAA has been legitimately passed by Parliament. The BJP articulated it in its manifesto; it won a resounding mandate; it used its legislative strength to pass the legislation. The subject under consideration is citizenship — which falls squarely within the Union List, authorising the Centre to act on it. Unless the SC declares it constitutionally invalid, it is the law of the land. And states — even if they do not agree — have no choice but to implement it. Congress leaders such as Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid, both lawyers, and Jairam Ramesh, who has filed a petition in the SC against the Act, have also made the point that the position of states that they will not implement the law will not stand up to judicial scrutiny. This is not about the CAA; it is about the larger framework that governs Centre-State relations. State governments have made their political point. They must now step back and wait for the SC’s order.