The Kerala government has challenged the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Supreme Court. It is the first state in the country to take a formal, legal step – beyond protests – to challenge the veracity of the law in the court.
There are nation-wide protests against the CAA from the time it was cleared in both houses of the Parliament in December 2019. The protesters say it is divisive and differentiates people on the basis of religion, that goes against the basic spirit of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court is already hearing over 60 petitions against the law, apart from several others filed in various courts all over the country. The Centre has appealed to bring all the petitions to the apex court for hearing so that there are no contradictions in the judgements. The Supreme Court will hear the matter soon.
Kerala’s Left-led government led by Pinarayi Vijayan, in its petition has called the CAA a violation of several articles of the Constitution, including the right to equality. It alleges violation of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution. Article 14 is about the right to equality, Article 21 says “no person will be deprived of life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law” and Article 25 says “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience”.
The government has also challenged the validity of changes made in 2015 to the Passport law and the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, that regularises the stay of non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had entered India prior to 2015. Since the CAA makes it easy for the non-Muslims from these three countries to become Indian citizens, there is a feeling that it is biased against the Muslims.
Several non-BJP ruled states have protested the CAA, including West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who has said that NRC and CAA would be implemented over her dead body. The CMs have also said they won’t implement it in their state, but this is the first time it has been challenged in court by a state government. On Monday, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, an ally of the BJP-led government at the Centre, welcomed a debate on the CAA.
Yesterday, eight eminent personalities, including a former Chief Election Commissioner, a former Supreme Court judge and actor Sharmila Tagore, appealed to people to “introspect and audit” the working of the Indian Constitution. The other signatories are former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, former Supreme Court judge J Chelameswar, former Army Commander Lt Gen Harcharanjit Singh Panag, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Carnatic musician TM Krishna, former chairman of UGC and ICSSR Sukhdeo Thorat and former member of the Planning Commission Syeda Hameed.