As the opposition-ruled states mount their combined opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, government sources have indicated that the states have no locus standi on matters of citizenship.
The Indian Constitution is clear on the matter. According to the seventh schedule, Article 246, of the Indian Constitution, citizenship, naturalisation and aliens fall in the Union List. This means that only the central government can formulate and amend laws on the issue. Only the central government can legislate on 97 subjects that are part of the Union List.
The clamour to oppose the Citizenship Bill was triggered by the comments of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who on December 12 labelled the bill as an “assault” on India’s secular credentials.
“Any legislation that seeks to divide people on religious lines is illegal, unethical & unconstitutional. India's strength lies in its diversity and #CABBill2019 violates the basic principle of the constitution. Hence my govt will not allow the bill to be implemented in Punjab (sic),” the Punjab CM said in a tweet.
Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan soon followed in his Punjab counterpart’s footsteps as he vowed to resist CAB’s implementation.
“Our democracy is in danger. With CAB, Sangh Parivar has used the majority they enjoy in the parliament to uproot the bedrock of Indian democracy & Constitution. It's a rejection of secularism. BJP has made it clear that their main political plank is communalism. We must resist,” the Kerala CM said in a tweet.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee became the third opposition CM to oppose the bill and has called for a strategy-formation meeting of her party’s MPs and MLAs on Dec 20 to brainstorm methods to oppose the bill.
The meeting is expected to be attended by political strategist and Janata Dal (United) parliamentarian Prashant Kishor, who, besides lashing out at his own party for backing the legislation in Lok Sabha, has appealed to "16 non-BJP CMs" across India to oppose its implementation.
Earlier in the day, even Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel indicated that they were willing to toe the line of their party’s central leadership. Notably, Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi termed the passage of the bill as a “black day” for the Indian democracy.
In Maharashtra, reports are coming in that Shiv Sena is being blackmailed by Congress in opposing the implementation of the Bill in Maharashtra.
Several legal experts have already given their final word that any attempt by states to block the bill will be unconstitutional.
Speaking to Times Now, former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee said that it was “unwise of the states to boycott the Citizenship Bill.”