Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday came out in support of the Kerala Assembly resolution demanding scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, saying it was the voice of the people and the Centre should also pay heed to it. In an open letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Punjab chief minister asserted that the states have already taken necessary legal advice on the matter and termed the Kerala Assembly's resolution on the amended citizenship law the "voice of the people" as spoken through their elected representatives, and urged the Centre to pay heed to the same.
"MLAs represent the voice of the people at large," Singh said, adding it was not only a matter of Parliamentary privilege but the constitutional duty of those representatives to make known such views.
A number of chief ministers, including those of West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, have already announced that the new citizenship law is "unconstitutional" and has no place in their states.
Declaring that as heads of responsible state governments "we are neither naive nor misguided", he said laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens, and like all powers, even Parliamentary power was coupled with duty to exercise it responsibly.
After the Kerala Assembly passed the resolution on December 31, Prasad asserted the law was binding on the entire country and was "perfectly legal" and "constitutional". He had said that only Parliament has exclusive powers to pass any law with regard to subjects under the seventh schedule and not any assembly.
According to Singh, by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 of the Constitution has the legislative power to pass laws regarding citizenship, and not the state governments, the Union law minister has entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala 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," the Punjab chief minister 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 said according to an official statement.
Drawing the Prasad's attention to the Preamble of the Constitution, Singh said that as a lawyer he should "know that the word 'secular' was one of the three specifically introduced into the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976.
The Punbaj chief minister 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 the law and equal protection of laws, irrespective of their religion," Singh said.
If the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 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 from where Hindus were ousted during the Idi Amin regime.
Citing the sensitive border location of Punjab, Singh said, "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," he said in the letter.
Referring to the NRC, on which "conflicting statements had been emerging from the Government of India, which generates no confidence whatsoever," Singh claimed that when read along with the CAA, it would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship.