Punjab CM comes out in support of Kerala Legislative Assembly’s resolution on CAA, asks Centre to pay heed

In an open letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Amarinder Singh countered the former’s remarks in which he had ‘discounted the positionbeing taken by some of the states against the CAA’

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh

Bipin Bhardwaj

Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has come out in support of the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly seeking amendment to the controversial Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA), terming it the voice of the people, and urging the Centre to pay heed to the same.

Amarinder Singh, in an open letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, has countered the latter’s remarks in which he 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.”

Asserting that the said states had already taken the necessary legal advice, Singh said the Kerala Assembly’s resolution represented the will and wisdom of the people, as spoken through their elected representatives. “Such MLAs represent the voice of the people at large,” he said, adding that it was not only a matter of parliamentary privilege but the constitutional duty of those representatives to make known such views.

He wrote, “We are neither naive nor misguided”, saying that the laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens, and like all powers, even the parliamentary power was coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.

According to Capt. Amarinder Singh, by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 had the legislative power to pass laws regarding Citizenship, and not the state governments, the Law Minister had entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative 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,” he pointed out.

“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 quipped.

The Chief Minister also took a dig at the Law Minister’s remarks reminding the states of their "constitutional" duty to implement such laws.  The leaders of such states had won their elections and taken oaths of office under the Constitution of India, he noted.

Drawing the minister’s attention to the Preamble of the Constitution, Amarinder Singh reminded him that he was a lawyer, and should “know that the words specifically introduced into the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. Given that the very fabric of our Constitution requires secular conduct, the minister was actually asking the states to abide by the very foundation of the Constitution, he observed.

Captain Amarinder 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 law and equal protection of laws, irrespective of their religion,” said the Chief Minister. If the CAA seeks to protect religious persecution, then such protection should be available to persons of all religious minorities, from all countries where people may face religious persecution, he emphasized, citing the example of Uganda as a country from where Hindus were ousted during the Idi Amin regime.

Citing the sensitive border location of Punjab, the CM also expressed another serious concern with respect to the CAA, noting that the Act’s language “does not even require that any illegal migrant seeking its benefit need be of Indian origin in any manner.” All they have to be is from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, he pointed out, adding that this could be a citizen or even a resident, or even a temporary person in transit through these countries.

“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,” said Amarinder Singh in his letter.

Referring to the NRC, on which conflicting statements have been emerging from various quarters, “which generates no confidence whatsoever,” Capt. Amarinder pointed out that when read along with the CAA it would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the right of citizenship. “The fear that laws can be mutilated, shredded and discarded overnight to suit political objectives is naturally a legitimate concern of many rightminded citizens of our country,” he added.

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