- Kapil Sibal said the Congress will challenge the Bill in Supreme Court
- He is representing IUML in its petition before the top Court
- CAB allows Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring countries
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) is unconstitutional and the court will decide on its validity, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said on Thursday, hours after the first petition challenging the proposed law was filed in the Supreme Court. Kapil Sibal is representing the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in its petition before the Supreme Court.
"If the Home Minister says this bill is valid, thank God he isn't a judge in Supreme Court. Merely because he says it is valid doesn't make it valid. We believe it's unconstitutional and the court will decide," Mr Sibal told NDTV when asked whether the Congress would be next to approach the Supreme Court against the CAB.
On the Shiv Sena, the Congress's new ally in Maharashtra, voting in favour of the bill in the Lok Sabha and staying away from the vote in the Rajya Sabha, apparently after Rahul Gandhi expressed his displeasure, Mr Sibal said the Sena is entitled to their position on certain issues.
"In Maharashtra we are working under a common minimum programme, we have not given up our ideology, and I don't think Sena has given up its ideology. The Sena on particular issues is entitled to take a position. The Sena did not support the bill they were not present in the (Rajya Sabha). Even if they were, it would not have mattered, outcome would not have been different," Mr Sibal said.
Mr Sibal said the bill would not have been brought by the government if the 19 lakh left out of the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) - the revised population list - did not have a large number of Hindus.
"The BJP did not realise a large section of the 19 lakh who were not part of the NRC would be Hindus. Had they been Muslims, the bill would not have come. They tried to approach the Supreme Court but the court said no. So what was the way out? The only way was to have a CAB," Mr Sibal said.
The citizenship bill, which enables non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to become citizens of India, is close to becoming law after being cleared by both houses of parliament. The ruling party, especially Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says the bill is intended to help minority communities facing religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.
The bill has sparked massive protests in Assam and other northeastern states, where people are worried that the demographics will change if immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh are legitimized.
"The peculiar problem for Assam is that those who are not part of the NRC and have to prove their legacy have said they belong to India and have been living here for many years. On what basis does the law say they've been persecuted," the Congress Rajya Sabha member said.
"The whole CAB is meant to benefit the Hindus, I doubt if it will."
Mr Sibal said in the constitution, three elements were conceptually a part of deciding citizenship - birth in India, parents born in India and a resident within the territory of India. "There is no fourth element in the concept. Religion does not come into this," he pointed out.
On PM Modi blaming the Congress and other opposition parties for the violent protests in Assam, Mr Sibal commented: "I don't give much credence to the words of the PM. He has said too many things on too many matters, which were all wrong."