Bin This Bill – Proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill exemplifies the propensity to over-legislate
Times of India Editorial
November 19, 2019, 6:00 AM IST
At the recent Palkhivala Memorial Lecture Bibek Debroy, chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, rightly deplored Indian legislators’ tendency to pass a law for every problem. This proclivity can lead to cures that are worse than the disease. And despite the NDA government promising ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ and committing to ‘ease of living’, this propensity to over-legislate remains.
A prime example is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that government is looking to introduce in the ongoing winter session of Parliament. The proposed legislation creates a path for Hindus and a few other denominations who have come from neighbouring countries, but excluding Muslims, to obtain Indian citizenship.
This militates against the basic tenets of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Articles 14 and 15 which guarantee equality before the law and forbid discrimination on grounds of religion. BJP’s argument is that the permitted religions are minorities who have faced religious persecution in neighbouring countries, therefore India should take them in on humanitarian grounds. But that can be determined only on a case by case basis, not read from a person’s religion alone. For example, a Hindu from Bangladesh may well be an economic migrant, while an Ahmadiyya or Shia Muslim from Pakistan could be persecuted for his religion.
As far as the bogey of uncontrolled illegal migration is concerned the country already has laws – Foreigners Act, 1946 and Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 – and tribunals to detect, detain and deport all illegal migrants residing in the country. Thus, this isn’t an issue that required further legislation.
The truth is the CAB is an offshoot of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam that caused much hardship to the people of that state. In the end 19.6 lakh people were excluded from the NRC out of which around 12 lakh were Hindus. It is now to give citizenship to the latter – which BJP sees as its vote bank – that the CAB is being pushed. Meanwhile, there are ludicrous calls to extend NRC across the country. If implemented it will cause massive upheaval for crores of people and send the already slowing economy into a tailspin. Internationally, it will serve the purpose of re-hyphenating India with Pakistan. Legislators need to make laws with reason and deliberation. They must think through the consequences of their zeal to legislate, instead of rushing the job and heaping untold miseries on people.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.