States have right to disagree, cannot be forced to implement CAA: Cong
New Delhi: Amid a debate over the implementation of the amended Citizenship Act, the Congress on Sunday said states have the right to challenge the Centre and cannot be "forced" to implement the "unconstitutional law" till the petition over it in the Supreme Court is decided.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a statement that the CAA is an attack on India's Constitution and the people's movement against the act shall continue "courageously and fearlessly".
The Congress' assertion comes a day after senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said there is no way a state can deny the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) when it is already passed by Parliament.
He, however, later asserted that every state assembly has the constitutional right to pass a resolution and seek the amended Citizenship Act's withdrawal, but if the law is declared constitutional by the Supreme Court then it will be problematic to oppose it. Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel in Ahmedabad said the states ruled by his party would consider bringing in a resolution in the legislative assemblies against the enforcement of the CAA.
He said states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh could follow in the footsteps of Punjab which passed a resolution in the Assembly against the CAA.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have become living symbols of 'sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism' using the instrument of state to attack India's ethos and its Constitution," Surjewala alleged.
He accused Modi and Shah of using the CAA as a "manipulative smoke-screen" to "divide and rule".
Repeated statements being made by the home minister and governors "forcing" the states to implement the CAA are itself preposterous and go against the very concept of 'constitutional federalism', Surjewala said. His remarks come at a time when a tussle is going on between the Kerala government and state's governor Arif Mohammad Khan over the Left dispensation approaching the Supreme Court against the CAA.
"Let the BJP government and its governors not forget that India is a Union of states. As per the established parliamentary practice, states can disagree with the Union and challenge the same by way of their constitutional right under Article 131 of the Constitution," Surjewala said.
In the past, many states such as Karnataka, Bihar and Rajasthan have approached the Supreme Court under Article 131 to resolve disputes with the Union of India on a range of issues, he said.
"Until the (CAA) issue is resolved on a petition moved under Article 131, states cannot be forced to implement an unconstitutional law like the CAA," Surjewala said, referring to the Kerala government moving the Supreme Court to challenge the CAA and seeking to declare it as violative of the principles of equality, freedom and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.
At a press conference, senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, when asked about Sibal's remarks, said all that some states have done or are immediately proposing to do is to file substantive petitions in the Supreme Court.
"Those petitions challenge at the state-level under a Constitutional article (for state governments)...Do they not have a fundamental right to do it (challenge) in the Supreme Court," he said.
"Till such time the state gets its decision one way or the other from the apex court of the country, is it wrong in suggesting that we will await that decision and not implement an act upon something which we are challenging," Singhvi said.
"I don't think there is any non-cooperation movement or rebellion as some people are calling out," he said.
Surjewala, in his statement, said the "divisive" CAA is an attack on India's Constitution, its poor, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the minorities.