Chandigarh: The Congress-ruled Punjab is likely to follow Kerala and challenge the constitutional validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Supreme Court.
According to Punjab advocate general Atul Nanda, the state is “seriously contemplating” the move. “I have been asked by the chief minister (Captain Amarinder Singh) to look at the possibility. We would also be taking similar grounds as Kerala under Article 131 of the Constitution,” Nanda told ThePrint.
The controversial CAA of the central government seeks to ease grant of citizenship to six non-Muslim minority communities from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they arrived in India before 31 December 2014. The fact that it lays down a religious test for citizenship claims has triggered allegations that it’s discriminatory.
Kerala has challenged the Act under Article 131 of the Constitution, which allows the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes between the Union government and states.
Led by a Communist Party of India (Marxist) government, Kerala has contended that it is being compelled to comply with the CAA despite it being “manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and violative of fundamental rights”.
House resolution likely Friday
Almost a fortnight before the Kerala government moved the Supreme Court, the state’s legislative assembly unanimously passed a resolution on 31 December requesting the central government to scrap the CAA.
A similar resolution opposing the CAA is likely to be passed during the two-day special session of the Punjab assembly, which began Thursday. The resolution, which is likely to be moved by the chief minister Friday, may include Punjab’s decision to move the Supreme Court.
The CM had Tuesday announced that Punjab would go by the will of the House on the way forward regarding the CAA, as well as the BJP’s proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR).
The NRC, whose error-riddled implementation in Assam triggered much controversy last year, is meant to identify illegal immigrants settled across India. The BJP had repeatedly talked about bringing a nationwide NRC before stepping back in the face of widespread anti-CAA protests.
Amid the CAA-NRC controversy, the BJP announced NPR updation.
The NPR, which seeks to identify long-term residents of an area for better welfare delivery and doesn’t require any documents, was first carried out under the UPA government. However, a new format that reportedly requires applicants to state their parents’ birthplace has led to alarm.
Amarinder said his cabinet had expressed serious concerns about the implications of the CAA and the NRC, as well as the NPR, describing them as “blatantly unconstitutional and divisive”.
He also expressed alarm over the violence that erupted across the country over the issues, which he said “threatened to rip apart the secular fabric of the nation”.
The chief minister said his council of ministers, who were given a legal perspective on the matter by Nanda, agreed with his view that the CAA, especially when coupled with the NRC and the NPR, was violative of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
The Congress has a brute majority of 80 in the 117-seat Punjab assembly, but the chief minister said he would try to ensure unanimous passage for the resolution. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the second-largest constituent of the assembly, is expected to support the government over the move.
Opposition, if any, is expected from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is an ally of the NDA. The Akali Dal, headed by MP Sukhbir Singh Badal, has, however, objected to the fact that the CAA is based on religion.
Even as he supported the law in Parliament, Badal took exception to the fact that it excluded Muslims, and called for a case-by-case approach.