Calling the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill ‘insidious’, veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that the central government was ramming through the contentious Bill to “advance its Hindutva agenda”.
“We have a Citizenship Act in this country. It recognises citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorporation of territory. Now, this government is introducing a new category called Citizenship by arbitrary executive fiat,” Chidambaram told the Upper House.
The Bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha with a 311-80 margin at 12.02 am Tuesday, seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.
The former home minister also pointed out that the Bill violates Article 14 of the Constitution on three grounds—unequal treatment, illegal classification and arbitrariness writ large. Stating that the Bill will ultimately be taken up in the court, Chidambaram expressed confidence that “this law will be struck down”.
“What we are doing here is wrecking the constitution from within. A small part of the constitution is sought to be wrecked and demolished by this insidious bill. Hopefully, the judiciary will strike it down and save India and the idea of India,” he said.
Chidambaram further dared the government to invite the Attorney General to this House to answer the questions. He also asked who gave the legal opinion for the Bill. “The Law Ministry? Home Ministry? or Attorney General?”, he asked, while seeking the reports to be placed in Parliament
Posing a couple of questions, Chidambaram asked the government, “How do you group three countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and leave out other neighbours. Secondly, how do you identify only six religious groups: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jain, Parsis, Christians and leave out others like Ahmadiyya, Hazaras, Rohingyas.”
“Third, Abrahamic religions are three: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Why have you included Christianity and left the other two.”
“Fourth, why have you excluded Sri Lankan Hindus and Bhutanese Christians. This exclusionary-inclusionary hyphenation is beyond common sense,” Chidambaram said. He also asked why only religious persecution is covered and not the persecution on the grounds of politics and linguistic reasons.
“We are elected representatives of the people. The constitution has asked us, in the first instance to judge the constitutionality of the Bill. We can’t pronounce on the constitutionality but we have a responsibility to pass what is constitutional…what we are doing is pushing the issue to the lap of the judges. It will not stop here. It will eventually go to the judges. Judges are respectable people but they are unelected. Unelected judges and unelected lawyers will ultimately decide whether what we do is constitutional or not. This is a slap in the face of parliament,” the Congress leader added.
Tabling the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the Bill will not affect the Muslims already residing in the country. “Misinformation has been spread that this bill is against Muslims of India. They are Indian citizens and will always remain, there is no discrimination against the Muslims residing in India,” said Shah, adding that it is not possible to give citizenship to Muslims fled from Muslim dominated countries.