We are wrecking the Indian Constitution from within: P Chidambaram

P Chidambaram | Photo: PTI
Sir, I will take less than ten minutes. My colleague, Mr. Sibal, will take the rest of the time. 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 fiat’ and asking this Parliament to support the Government in passing what is patently an 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, in the first instance, to judge the constitutionality of a Bill. We cannot 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 commonsense to say is this constitutional or not. What are we doing in this House? What we did in the other House and what we are doing in this House is abdicating our primary responsibility in favour of another of the three entities/end organs of the Constitution. What we are doing is: You are pushing the issue to the lap of the Judges. Do you think it will stop here? It will not stop here. It will eventually go before the Judges. And, the Judges are respectable people. But, they are unelected Judges. Unelected Judges and unelected lawyers will ultimately decide 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, lawyers and Judges will decide what you have done is constitutional or not. Knowing this is unconstitutional, I am afraid, this Government is ramming through this Bill in order to advance its Hindutva agenda. This is a sad day. Thankfully, we are not amending the Constitution; we are only making a law. And, I am absolutely confident and I am absolutely clear in my mind that this law will be struck off.


Sir, I have a few questions and I wanted to know who in the Government found answers to these questions. If the Law Department has advised answers to these questions, please ask the hon. Home Minister to lay the opinion of the Law Ministry on the Table of the House. If it is a Home Ministry itself, in its wisdom, found answers to questions, let us see the final note placed by the Secretary before the hon. Home Minister. If it is the Attorney General who has been consulted – the Constitution has a provision to invite the Attorney General – please call the Attorney General to this House. We will ask him these questions. But, somebody has to take responsibility for answers to these questions.


These questions are well-known. Let me read it very rapidly. How do you group three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh – and leave out the other neighbours? How do you identify only six religious groups – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – and leave out others like Ahmadis, Hazaras and Rohingyas?


Ibrahamic religions are three – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Why have you included Christianity and left the other two? Why have you excluded Sri Lankan Hindus and Bhutan’s Christians? Look at the exclusionary, inclusionary hyphenation. Sri Lanka is excluded, Hindus are included! Bhutan is excluded, Christians are included! When you hyphenate the effectives, Sri Lankan Hindus are excluded, Bhutan’s Christians are excluded. This exclusionary, inclusionary hyphenation is beyond commonsense and logic. Why only religious persecution? Are people not persecuted for political reasons? Are people not persecuted on linguistic grounds? Are people not persecuted by unleashing internal wars against them? Why only religious persecution? Why not every kind of persecution?


Six, does or does not the Bill violate the three fundamental elements of Article 14 of the Constitution? First, equality before law; unequals cannot be treated as equals. Second, unreasonable or irrational classification. And, there is a third element, which most people forget, Judge-made laws are the third element. Even if unequals are not treated as equals or equals are treated unequally, even if the classification is reasonable, it can be struck down on the ground that it is arbitrary. Arbitrariness is writ large on the face of this Bill.


Now, I want to know who will give answer to these questions. Please let us have the answers. Why are Parliamentarians being told that you will not give answers to these questions and they can go to court and find answers? Let’s have answers to the questions. Let somebody take responsibility for answers saying, "Yes, the Attorney General of India has answered these questions. These are our answers and, therefore, this Bill is here".


I dare the Government to lay the opinion of the Law Department; I dare the Government to invite the Attorney General to this House to answer our questions. So, what we are doing today is wrecking the Constitution from within. A small part of the Constitution is sought to be wrecked and demolished by this insidious Bill. Fortunately, we are three organs of the State. The Executive is complicit; the Legislature is being invited to collaborate; hopefully, the Judiciary will strike it down and will save India. December.


Edited excerpts from a speech by Congress I MP, P Chidambaram, on The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha, 11 December


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