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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Protests against the new citizenship law are constitutional, they seek to protect its basic structure

Pinarayi Vijayan writes: The CAA has created anxieties across the country, resulting in large scale protests. Kerala, because of its commitment to the values of humanity, sees it as its responsibility to take up the mantle in this struggle for justice.

Written by Pinarayi Vijayan | Updated: January 18, 2020 1:27:15 pm
Constitution of India, Indian Consitution Social justice, Nani Palkhivala indian constitution, Kashmir lockdown, Indian Express news The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, (CAA) falls in line with a series of efforts along those lines. (Illustration)

The Indian Constitution was framed encompassing all the values put forth by our freedom struggle. That is why ideas such as secularism and equality are part of its basic structure. However, today, the forces who are the descendants of those who tried to betray our national movement, are trying to erode the fundamental tenets of our Constitution and topple our democracy. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, (CAA) falls in line with a series of efforts along those lines.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution characterises India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. To be secular is to not discriminate on the basis of religion. In the CAA, there is a clear discrimination on the basis of religion. In Part II of the Constitution, there is no criterion for exclusion or inclusion of individuals who aspire to be Indian citizens on the basis of religion. The CAA makes religion a criterion for granting citizenship. Under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution equality is ensured to any person within the territory of India, as a Fundamental Right. Such equality is denied under the CAA. Read in Malayalam

As the CAA is the first step which would be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Kerala has taken a firm stand against the NRC as well. We have also categorically stated that no detention centre will be built in the state to cater to the CAA-NRC exercise. We have stayed all activities within the state, related to the NPR as well, and ensuring that in Kerala, no one will have to live in fear. It is because of Kerala’s unwavering stance that now many other state governments have concluded that the CAA is blatantly unconstitutional and the CAA-NRC combine is fundamentally discriminatory.

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State ministers take the oath as prescribed in the Third Schedule of the Indian Constitution. In it we affirm our allegiance to the Constitution of India and pledge to do right to all people in accordance to it. Right now, we are doing our duty, which is to stand by the Constitution, to protect it and to uphold it. Even the act of challenging the CAA in the Supreme Court is based on the Indian Constitution. The suit is instituted under Article 131 of the Constitution, which essentially states that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Government of India and a state; if the dispute involves any legal or factual question on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends. Kerala has prayed for the Supreme Court to declare the CAA to be void as it is in violation of the basic structure of our Constitution and violative of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) and Article 25 (Right to Freedom of Religion) of the Indian Constitution.

The only provision in the Constitution that limits discussion in the legislature is the Article 211 of the Constitution, which curtails discussions on the conduct of judges in the Supreme Court or High Court. State legislatures can discuss any issue that it deems fit and pass resolutions as well. The Kerala Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution demanding the central government to repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. The Constitution allows a state assembly to do so.

According to Article 2, 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a signatory, prevention of discrimination is applicable for all persons within our territory or under our jurisdiction, not just for our citizens. We are in clear violation of an international covenant, and thus, of our international commitments. It puts a strain on our international relations and risks investments from abroad. What the world thinks about us matters, as more than half of India’s GDP is in the external sector. The CAA will not just affect our society, but will also hamper our economic development.

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Kerala is the land of communal harmony; we do not discriminate on the basis of religion or place of origin. We have achieved high levels of development because all sections of the society have been taken care of in all our developmental initiatives. We strive to uphold a scientific temper and achieve progress through scientific and technological interventions. We resist injustice and always lend a helping hand.

The CAA has created anxieties across the country, resulting in large scale protests. Kerala, because of its commitment to the values of humanity, sees it as its responsibility to take up the mantle in this struggle for justice. Our renaissance movements and progressive struggles have taught us to stand up for our rights. Kerala is standing by its commitment to the lofty ideals on which our country has been founded. It is as a mark of our resolve to protect our democracy and Constitution that we are forming a human chain on the upcoming Republic Day, against the unconstitutional CAA.

This article first appeared in the print edition on January 18, 2020 under the title ‘Of, by and for the Constitution.’ The writer is Chief Minister of Kerala

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