The Kerala government said the assembly had on December 31, 2019, passed a resolution requesting the Centre to “abrogate CAA” and requested the Supreme Court to scrap the law as otherwise the state was bound under Article 256 of the Constitution to implement its “arbitrary, unreasonable and irrational” provisions.
The law provides a path to citizenship for Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist minorities who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh due to religious persecution and entered India by December 31, 2014.
This is the second time in the last 60 years that a state government has moved the apex court resisting implementation of a Parliament-enacted law. In 1961, the West Bengal government had moved a suit in the court under Article 131 against Parliament passing the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957, which had empowered the Centre to acquire land vested or owned by the state government.
The court had then ruled that “upon proper interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Act, it was clear that the Act applied also to coal bearing areas vested in or owned by the state”, upholding a crucial constitutional edge enjoyed by the Centre to legislate for acquiring state-owned property. Article 131 gives the SC the exclusive jurisdiction to decide suits relating to Centre-state and state-state disputes.
Apart from neighbouring countries, the Kerala government asked why the CAA did not cover ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. It said, “The impugned amendment Act and Rules and Passport Orders further overlooked the issues of ethnic Indians in Malaysia and Fiji. The Indian diaspora in Malaysia and Fiji are descendants of those Indians who migrated there in search of work or were brought there as indentured labourers when those were British colonies.”
The state said the CAA overlooked the issues of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Muslims in Sri Lanka, who are minuscule minorities in those countries. The CAA also did not consider “Hindus, primarily of Tamil descent in Sri Lanka, and Hindu Madhesis in Terai of Nepal, Christians of Bhutan and Sri Lanka and Buddhists from Nepal” for citizenship, it said.
It went on to say that the CAA did not cover “the ethnic issues of Balochs, Sindhis, Pakhthuns and Mohajirs in Pakistan and Biharis in Bangladesh”. “The Biharis of Bangladesh and Mohajirs of Pakistan form part of millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths who were staying in the said areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh when India was partitioned in 1947,” the Left Front government said.
It further said the CAA did not promise citizenship to “Hazaras, reportedly persecuted and repeatedly attempted to be cleansed on the ground of their ethnicity, in Afghanistan. Further, the CAA does not cover the ethnic and linguistic issues of Tamils in Sri Lanka”.
The plea, without articulating how the CAA became a Centre-state dispute, said since the Act was “manifestly arbitrary and unconstitutional” as it violated secularism and right to equality, “thus, there exists a dispute involving questions of law and facts between the state of Kerala and the Union of India, regarding the enforcement of legal rights as a state and as well as for the enforcement of fundamental, statutory, constitutional and other legal rights of the inhabitants of the state of Kerala”.