Kerala within rights on CAA resolution

Kerala within rights on CAA resolution

Questions over the propriety of the Kerala Legislative Assembly passing a resolution demanding scrapping of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), a central legislation, are without basis as the state has not violated any provision of the Constitution in doing so. The resolution only points to the growing dissent in the country against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which many see as a corollary to CAA. So far, the chief ministers of at least 11 states—Kerala, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Delhi, Odisha—comprising over 50% of India’s population, have opposed either the CAA or NRC, or both. Whatever be the merits or demerits of the Act, the fact that protests have spread to the entire country, in addition to the states which have officially conveyed their opposition, should force the Centre to take notice and reconsider the law instead of remaining obstinate in its stand. 

This is not the first time that a state Assembly has adopted a resolution on issues on which its views are in conflict with those of the Centre. In 2017, the Karnataka Assembly passed a resolution not to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as directed by the Supreme Court. The state’s counsel Fali Nariman had then informed the court that the Assembly was empowered to pass such a resolution under Article 208 of the Constitution. In 2001, the Punjab Assembly had unanimously condemned Operation Bluestar by the Centre to flush out separatists from the Golden Temple in 1984. In 2017, Kerala Assembly passed a resolution against the Centre’s beef ban. Such instances are many. In the instant case, too, Kerala has not infringed upon Parliament’s domain as it has not legislated on any matter which falls within the Centre’s purview under the Seventh Schedule but has only passed a resolution which reflects the collective view of the people of the state.

Though there is not much the dissenting states can do about the implementation of the CAA, they can block the setting up of detention centres, leading to a direct confrontation with the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah would do well to take all states on board, in the true spirit of federalism, on such important issues, instead of running roughshod over them. The Centre should immediately convene the inter-state council and discuss the issue. Indeed, doing so before Parliament passes any law that affects the states should become standard practice. India is a union of states. The Centre cannot assume the role of a big brother and bully and bash on on issues ignoring regional aspirations and sentiments.

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