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Fresh debate on the federal question

  • The recent political developments around the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have revealed some of the most significant crevices of Indian federalism.
  • Soon after the protests erupted, several State governments declared that they would not implement the law.
  • Further, in a somewhat unprecedented move, the Legislative Assembly of Kerala went to the extent of passing a resolution, stating that the law “contradicts the basic values and principles of the Constitution”.
  • Indeed, the resolution is only symbolic, and has no legal ramifications. And, though the passage of any such resolution is not constitutionally barred, it may not be in tune with the federal scheme under the Constitution.

Law in relation:

  • Article 256 of the Constitution obligates the State government to ensure implementation of the laws made by Parliament. If the State government fails to do so, the Government of India is empowered to give “such directions to a State as may appear… to be necessary”.
  • The refusal to enforce the law even after the Centre issues directions would empower the President to impose President’s Rule in those States under Articles 356 and 365.
  • The Supreme Court of India has also confirmed this reading of the law in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India — arguably the most significant case on Indian federalism.
February 2024