Punjab CM provides a lesson on law and Constitution to the Law Minister

In a letter to Union Law Minister, Punjab CM said that the minister’s comment on Kerala Assembly resolution against CAA was misplaced. CAA, he added, can jeopardise the safety and security of India

Punjab CM provides a lesson on law and Constitution to the Law Minister

NH Web Desk

In a Twitter exchange on Friday, Punjab Chief Minister forced Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the backfoot. While the Union Law Minister had advised state governments opposing CAA to seek better legal advice, Captain Amarinder Singh in his letter turned the tables on the minister. It was the law minister, he suggested, who needed to look up the Constitution. He also went on to explain how the CAA could endanger the safety and security of India.

The Union Law Minister, on his part, fell back on the ‘wise’ leadership of Gandhi, Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Indira Gandhi in an attempt to justify the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019.

The text of Captain Amarinder Singh’s letter, which he tweeted, is reproduced below: The link to his tweet and the Union Minister’s reply appears at the bottom of this story.

Dear Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad Ji,

I was concerned to read about your recent remarks regarding the resolution seeking an amendment to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly. While discounting the position being taken by some of the states against the CAA, you called upon such politicians to seek appropriate legal advice before taking such a stand. We have done so.

While you aggressively defend the CAA by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 has the legislative power to pass laws as regards Citizenship, and not the State Governments, I am afraid you have 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. 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

The passing of a resolution by the Legislative Assembly represents the will and wisdom of persons spoken through, legally and validly, their elected representatives. Such MLAs represent the voice of the people at large. It is not only a matter of Parliamentary privilege but the constitutional duty of those representatives, to make known such views. The resolution is a medium of such voice of the people they represent.

I was also slightly amused when you resorted to reminding the States of their "constitutional" duty to implement such laws, the leaders of such States have won their elections and taken oaths of office under the Constitution of India. While we are on the language of the Constitution of India, may I draw your attention to the Preamble of the Constitution. Once again as a lawyer, you will know that the word "Secular" was one of the three words specifically Introduced into the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. The very fabric of our Constitution requires secular conduct. This is the very foundation of the Constitution which you are asking the States to abide by.

I can only presume your continuous disclaimer that the CAA does not in any manner affect Indian Muslims is 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.

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. Uganda during the Idi Amin regime is one such example where Hindus were ousted from his country.

There is a fear that the NRC will be implemented throughout the country, on which conflicting statements have been emerging from the Government of India, which generates no confidence whatsoever. This, when read along with the CAA would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship, given the arm twisting method of legislation, which is being carried out by the present regime. The fear that laws can be mutilated, shredded and discarded overnight to suit political objectives is naturally a legitimate concern of many right-minded citizens of our country.

As the Chief Minister of a border State, I too have a grave concern. The language of the CAA does even require that any illegal migrant seeking its benefit need not be of Indian origin in any manner. All they have to be is from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. 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.

Minister, as heads of responsible Governments of our States, we are neither naive nor misguided. In a federal structure such as ours, it is imperative that the Centre heed the voice which arises from the people of our States. Laws are not to be forcibly imposed on citizens. Like all powers, even Parliamentary power is coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.

With best wishes,

(Amarinder Singh)

Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad Minister of Law & Justice responded by saying:

“ You are a senior, seasoned & informed leader who fought for India as an Army officer earlier. Both the Centre & states have to work together to keep India safe & secure & also give shelter to those persecuted for their faith.”

“This is the glorious tradition of India. As a well-informed leader surely you will recall the public commitment of Gandhi Ji, Nehru Ji, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Ji, Sardar Patel Ji and many other leaders about the need to give respect and shelter the persecuted minorities of Pakistan from which Bangladesh was created later.

“Surely, you would recall the wise decision of Smt. Indira Gandhi to give citizenship to the uprooted and persecuted Hindus of Uganda under the regime of dictator Idi Amin and also citizenship granted to victimised Tamil people of Sri Lanka.”

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Published: 03 Jan 2020, 5:34 PM