Not your call: MHA tells states opposing Citizenship Amendment Act
Thus far, the chief ministers of five states have signalled their unwillingness to implement the new law — the Citizenship (Amendment) Act: Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 02:18 IST
Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh on Friday joined the campaign against changes in the citizenship law, declaring that they may not implement the new law , the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Union Home Ministry, however, was quick to point out that citizenship is a central subject and that this isn’t their call to take. Senior government officials too said that once the Centre issues the notification to bring the new amendments into force, the state governments will have to abide by the law of the land.
Still, while the Constitution gives the Central Government exclusive powers to frame legislation on citizenship, states can refuse to participate in the enumeration exercise or delay it, citing law and order issues, rendering the law ineffective, according to constitutional experts.
Thus far, the chief ministers of five states have signalled their unwillingness to implement the law: Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh.
On Friday, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath said that he will do what other Congress chief ministers have done about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019.
“I cannot help sow the seeds of divisiveness. The federal structure is at stake; the Centre should have consulted with the chief ministers before going ahead with this,” said Nath, while speaking to a group of journalists in Delhi.
Another Congress chief minister, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel, too, said that he will oppose the law. “Our stand won’t be different from what is being taken by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on the Citizenship Amendment Act.”
A senior government official termed the position taken by the CMs “posturing”.
“This is the constitutional scheme of things… and a government cannot be run any way other than in accordance with the Constitution,” added this person who asked not to be named.
“There are three lists under the seventh schedule – union, concurrent and state. Centre has exclusive domain to frame laws on matters falling under the union list and citizenship is one such subject. States have no discretion to say they will not implement it,” explained senior Supreme Court advocate Anupam Lal Das.
But, they can delay verification of documents , citing law and order problems. “Law and order is a state subject, which means the state administration has complete control over its police and public order. States can turn around and say they will conduct not any enumeration exercise as a precautionary measure to maintain public order,” Das added.
There’s also the legal option.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said states can voice their opposition against the law by challenging CAA in the Supreme Court. “There is no precedent yet but the Constitution permits the state to approach the top court,” he said. States have, in the past, filed civil suits against the Centre for relief in matters such as boundary reorganization or water disputes.
“Centre has the power to frame rules under the law but to determine whether people are foreigners or not is the state government’s job,” Hegde explained.
Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has called for a massive rally against CAA on Monday.
“@MamataOfficial announces mega rally against #CitizenshipAmendmentBill2019 on December 16 in #Kolkata. The rally will begin near the statue of Dr BR Ambedkar and end at Jorasanko. Didi will walk in the rally,” tweeted the official handle of the All India Trinamool Congress.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was among the first to declare that his state would not implement the new citizenship law which it considers to be “unconstitutional”.
“In Kerala nobody has to feel any apprehension in this regard. We will not implement the lopsided law which is meant to divide people,” he said in the state capital on Thursday.
According to the Citizenship Amendment Act, Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian, Jain and Buddhist immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who entered India without documentation before 31 December 2014 will be entitled to get Indian citizenship in five years ( instead of 11 years currently). Once they apply for citizenship, they will also be protected from all proceedings for entering the country illegally.