Former Finance and Home Minister of India, P Chidambaram while talking about the constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Rajya Sabha said that passing CAB will be “wrecking the Constitution from within”. During the debate, he also invoked Article 14 and claimed that CAB violates the fundamentals of ‘Equality before Law’. He also raised several questions on the “arbitrariness” behind the selection of the religious group that will be given citizenship under CAB.
P Chidambaram started his side of the debate by explaining the provision of the existing Citizenship laws in India. He said, “We have a Citizenship Act in this country, it recognises citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent, citizenship by registration, citizenship by naturalisation and citizenship by incorporation of territory. These are universal principles. Now, this government is introducing a new category called citizenship by arbitrary executive feat”.
“The government is asking this Parliament to support the government in passing this patently unconstitutional law. My friends have spoken about it, others will speak about it. We are elected representatives of the people. The Constitution has asked us to, 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. Not all of us are lawyers, in fact, not all of us should be lawyers. We should be from every walk of life and from every walk of life we must bring our collective wisdom and common sense to say, is this Constitutional or not? What are we doing in this House?” he added.
P Chidambaram during the debate made veiled comments on how the opposition will surely move to the Supreme Court to strike the CAB down. He said, “What we did in the other House and what we are doing in this House is adjudicate our primary responsibility in favour of another, of the three entities in or against the Constitution. What we are doing, we are pushing the issue to the lap of the judges. You think it will stop here? It will not stop here. It will eventually go to the judges and the judges are respectable people, but they are unelected judges. So, unelected judges and unelected lawyers will ultimately decide whether what we do is Constitutional or not. This is a slap on the face of Parliament”.
“Parliamentarians are being asked to do something unconstitutional and then the baby is passed on to the judiciary and in the judiciary, the lawyers and judges will decide whether what you have done is Constitutional or not. Knowing that this is unconstitutional, the government is ramming through this Bill. In order to advance its Hindutva agenda. This is a sad day, thankfully they are not amending the Constitution, they are only making the law and I am absolutely confident and absolutely clear in my mind that this law will be struck down,” he added.
P Chidambaram, during the debate, raised six issues questioning the constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019. He said, “Sir, I have a few questions and I want to know who in the govt found answers to this question. If the law department has the answers to these questions, please ask the honourable Home Minister to lay the opinion of the Law Ministry on the table of the House. If it is the Home Ministry itself in its wisdom, found the answers to these questions, let us see the final note placed by the Secretary before the Home Minister. If it is the Attorney General who has been consulted, the Constitution has the provision to invite the Attorney General in the House. Somebody has to take the responsibility to give answers to these questions. These questions are very well known, let me read them very rapidly.
P Chidambaram said, “Now, I want to know who gave answers to these questions, please let us have the answers. Why are parliamentarians being told, you will not be given answers to these questions, go to the court and find the answers. Let somebody take the responsibility and answer these questions and prove that this bill is valid. I dare the government to lay the opinion of the law department, I dare the government to invite the attorney general in this House and answer these questions. What we are doing today is that we are wrecking the Constitution from within. A small part of the Constitution is set to be wrecked and demolished by this insidious bill. Unfortunately, we have three organs in the state, the Executive is complicit, the Legislature is being invited to collaborate, hopefully the Judiciary will strike it down and save India”.
As per the Article 14 of Indian Constitution, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
The opposition while debating about the Constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the upper house of the Parliament said that bill violates the Article 14 of the Constitution, which simply put is ‘Equality before the Law’. According to Article 14, every person residing within the territory of India, even a foreigner is equal before the law. Vouching on this, the opposition has claimed that the “arbitrary selection” of the religious groups that will be given citizenship in India, leaves out the groups that have not been mentioned in the law. If these people, however, have been residing in the country before December 31, 2014, and not get the citizenship, that phenomena will be unconstitutional, thereby violating Article 14.