Chandigarh: Taking exception to the remarks made by Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday came out in support of the resolution passed by the Kerala Assembly seeking amendment to the controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and termed it as the "voice of the people".
In an open letter to the Law Minister, the Chief Minister countered the former's recent remarks in which he had "discounted the position being taken by some of the states against the CAA" and "called upon such politicians to seek appropriate legal advice before taking such a stand."
Asserting that the said states had already taken the necessary legal advice, Amarinder Singh said the Kerala Assembly's resolution represented the will and wisdom of the people, as spoken through their elected representatives.
"Such MLAs represent the voice of the people at large," he said, adding that it was not only a matter of Parliamentary privilege, but the constitutional duty of those representatives to make known such views.
Declaring that as heads of responsible state governments "we are neither naive nor misguided", the Chief Minister said laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens, and like all powers, even the Parliamentary power was coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.
According to Amarinder Singh, by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 had the legislative power to pass laws as regards citizenship, and not the state governments, the Law Minister had entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
"It has not passed any citizenship law. It urges the government of India (through Parliament where it now has a majority) to amend the CAA," he pointed out.
"Surely, you, both as Minister of Law as well as a lawyer, know that the resolution is rightly directed, as it is Parliament which must amend or repeal such law based on a proposal or Bill mooted by the Government of India," Amarinder Singh said.
The Chief Minister also took a dig at the Law Minister for the reminding the states of their "constitutional duty to implement such laws".
The leaders of such states had won their elections and taken oath of office under the Constitution of India, he noted.
Drawing the Minister's attention to the Preamble of the Constitution, Amarinder Singh reminded Prasad that he was a lawyer, and should "know that the word 'secular' was one of the three words specifically introduced into the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976.
Given that the very fabric of the Constitution requires secular conduct, the minister was actually asking the states to abide by the very foundation of the Constitution, he observed.
Referring to the NRC, on which conflicting statements had been emerging from the Centre, "which generates no confidence whatsoever," Amarinder Singh pointed out that when read along with the CAA it would automatically deprive many (if not all) Indian Muslims of the rights of citizenship.
"The fear that laws can be mutilated, shredded and discarded overnight to suit political objectives is naturally a legitimate concern of many right minded citizens of our country," he added.