States can’t be forced to implement CAA until SC verdict: Congress

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Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala.

ARGUING THAT statements made by Home Minister Amit Shah and some of the Governors, “forcing” states to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), was “preposterous” and go against the concept of Constitutional federalism, the Congress on Sunday said the states cannot be forced to implement the CAA until the Supreme Court gives its verdict on a petition challenging the CAA under Article 131 of the Constitution.

The Congress’s assertion, interestingly, came a day after senior party leader and former Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that it would be unconstitutional for state governments to say they will not implement the CAA. The Congress did not mention Sibal’s statement. Neither did it refer to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s remarks that states have no option but to implement the law.

But the Congress’s message was clear. At least one senior leader said the advice was both to “our leaders” and to the government.

Referring to statements by the Home Minister and Governors, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said, “Let the BJP government and its Governors not forget that India is a Union of States. As per the established Parliamentary practice, states can disagree with the Union and challenge the same by way of their constitutional right under Article 131 of the Constitution.”

“In the past, many states such as Karnataka, Bihar, Rajasthan, just to name a few, approached the Supreme Court of India under Article 131 to resolve disputes with Union of India on a range of issues. Until the issue is resolved on a petition moved under Article 131, states cannot be forced to implement an unconstitutional law like the CAA.”

Surjewala argued that the BJP’s allies such as AASU, NPF and Akali Dal have spoken against the CAA. “Why is the BJP’s own Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal opposing the CAA? Why is the BJP’s Northeast in-charge Hemanta Biswa Sarma rejecting the CAA by claiming that ‘religious persecution’ will not be a ground for grant of citizenship? This exposes the BJP’s own double speak and fallibility of its divisive agenda,” he said.

He said the Congress was in favour of granting citizenship to all — Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Muslims — irrespective of nationality, place of residence, ethnicity or religion.

“On the other hand, the illegal and unconstitutional CAA, in its present form, seeks to exclude Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Muslims and others based on country of origin, country of residence and religion. Why are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Muslims of Sri Lanka, Tibet and Myanmar being excluded from being given citizenship of India under the CAA? Why are Hindus or other communities from Nepal and Bhutan being denied India’s citizenship under the CAA?” he asked.