Updated: February 18, 2021 1:17:55 am
In the first official reaction by the Assam government on the recommendations of a committee on Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which promises safeguards to “Assamese people”, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Wednesday said its suggestions could not be implemented as they were “far from legal reality”.
The Sarbananda Sonowal-led state government had promised a speedy implementation of Clause 6 in December 2019, in a bid to quell the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Assam. However, since a Centre-appointed panel submitted its recommendations in February 2020, to be forwarded to the Union Home Ministry, the government has been silent on the matter.
Sarma called the suggestions of the panel incongruent with reality, speaking at the launch of Eta Xopunor Pom Khedi (Chasing a dream), a compilation of 25 of his speeches, Wednesday. Speaking to The Indian Express later, the senior BJP leader said, ““The recommendations made by the committee contradict many judgments and pronouncements of the Supreme Court and provisions of the Constitution. As a government, we cannot implement something that is contrary to the findings of the Supreme Court.”
Sarma added that the committee recommended “reservation up to 80%, in some cases up to 100% in Parliament, Assembly… but the Supreme Court says reservation cannot exceed 50% (of the total)”.
Sarma said his statement was entirely “factual”, and that the state government would have “happily implemented it (the report)” if the recommendations did not contradict the Supreme Court. “This may be an emotive (sic) issue… but based on whether somebody is happy or not happy… how can a democratically elected government go against the Supreme Court?”
The minister claimed that committee members too realised that some recommendations may face complications. “So they themselves suggested that the report should be examined by a legal committee,” he said.
While the Clause 6 committee’s recommendations have not been spoken about by the government, four members of the panel — including three senior leaders of the AASU (the student outfit had been a signatory to the Assam Accord) and Arunachal Pradesh Advocate General Nilay Dutta — had independently leaked the same to the press in August 2020.
The recommendations talked about setting 1951 as a cut-off year to determine “Assamese people” (the Assam National Register of Citizens sets 1971 as the cut-off year for citizenship, and the CAA sets it at 2014 to fast-track citizenship for minority refugees from other countries). The panel talked about setting aside 80-100% seats in Assam in Parliament and Assembly and local bodies (inclusive of pre-existing reservations) for Assamese people, and of quota in jobs.
As the Assam elections near, the Opposition has been playing up fears regarding the CAA, which is seen as undermining the Assam NRC. The Centre, that is yet to notify rules regarding the CAA, recently got time till the middle of the year to do the same — or, till after the Assam polls.
Talking about the CAA Wednesday, Sarma claimed the Centre will implement the rules in such a way that it will “strike a balance between Hindu immigrants who are seeking citizenship and indigenous Assamese interests”
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