Can State Governments Refuse To Implement Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

Can State Governments Refuse To Implement Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan outright rejected to implement the policy in his state. Similar remarks have been made by CMs of opposition ruled states in the past.

Tejas JoshiUpdated: Monday, March 11, 2024, 07:49 PM IST
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In a big development ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday announced implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 rules. The move by centre sparked furious reaction from many quarters, including some opposition states. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan outright rejected to implement the policy in his state. Similar remarks have been made by CMs of opposition ruled states in the past.

But, can states refuse to implement CAA?

Indian states CAN NOT refuse to implement citizenship laws made by the central government because citizenship falls under the domain of the Union List according to the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution. This means that the Parliament of India has exclusive authority to legislate on matters related to citizenship, naturalisation, and aliens. States do not have the power to override laws passed by the central government in these areas.

Additionally, Article 246 of the Constitution delineates the legislative powers between the Parliament and the state legislatures. Matters specified in the Union List, including citizenship, are solely within the jurisdiction of the Parliament, while matters listed in the State List are under the control of the state legislatures.

Therefore, any attempt by a state to refuse implementation of citizenship laws passed by the central government would be unconstitutional and legally untenable. States are bound by the laws enacted by the Parliament and are required to adhere to them as per the principles of federalism outlined in the Indian Constitution.

Refusing to implement CAA would be unconstitutional: Sibal

Earlier in 2020, senior advocate and one of the key oppsoition voices Kapil Sibbal had also voiced similar opinion. Sibal, considered as foremost scholar in Indian legal circles, had said that there is no way a state can deny the implementation of CAA and doing so would be "unconstitutional".

"If the CAA is passed no state can say 'I will not implement it'. It is not possible and is unconstitutional. You can oppose it, you can pass a resolution in the Assembly and ask the central government to withdraw it. But constitutionally saying that I won't implement it is going to be problematic and going to create more difficulties," the former Law minister had stated at a litfest in Kerala.

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