Context

Kerala has become the first state to move the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 – CAA, 2019.

Besides, Chhattisgarh government has also filed a suit in the Supreme Court under Article 131, challenging the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act on the ground that it encroaches upon the state’s powers to maintain law and order.

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 seeks to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Buddhist, Hindu, Sikhs, Jain, Parsi and Christian faiths, who have come to India from the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, on or before 31st December 2014.

What is Article 131?

Under Article 131 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to deal with any dispute between the Centre and a state; the Centre and a state on the one side and another state on the other side; and two or more states.

Criteria:

  • For a dispute to qualify as a dispute under Article 131, it has to necessarily be between states and the Centre, and must involve a question of law or fact on which the existence of a legal right of the state or the Centre depends.

Why the Kerala Government Can’t Deny the Implementation of CAA 2019?

The suit has been filed under Article 131 of the Constitution.

  • Kerala has said in its suit that it would be compelled under Article 256to comply with the CAA, which it considers manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and violative of fundamental rights.
  • Article 256of the Constitution states that the executive power of every State shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament.
  • Thus, there exists a dispute, involving questions of law and fact,between the State of Kerala and the Union of India, regarding the enforcement of legal rights as a State and as well for the enforcement of the fundamental, constitutional and other legal rights of the inhabitants of the State of Kerala.
  • The Kerala Government has asked for the law to be declared unconstitutional and in violation of:
  • Article 14(equality before law),
  • Article 21(protection of life and personal liberty) and
  • Article 25(freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion).
  • It has also sought directions to declare the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, and Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015, to be“ultra vires the Constitution of India and to be void”.
  • As per the petition, the amendments also violate India’s international obligations under:

Article 131 of the Constitution (Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court)

  • The dispute must involve a question (whether of law or fact)on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.
  • Any suit brought before the Supreme Court by a private citizenagainst the Centre or a state cannot be entertained under this.
  • The original jurisdiction of a court means the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, in which the court reviews the decision of a lower court.

Why It Is Different from Article 32

Unlike the original jurisdiction under Article 32 (which gives the Supreme Court the power to issue writs, etc.), the jurisdiction in Article 131 is exclusive, meaning it is only the Supreme Court which has this authority. Under Article 226, the High Courts too have the power to issue writs, directions etc.

Supreme Court’s Stand on Article 131

  • There have beentwo conflicting judgments from the Supreme Court on whether a State can file an original suit under Article 131 to challenge the constitutionality of a central law.
  • The first judgment reported in 2012 –State of Madhya Pradesh vs Union of India – held that States cannot challenge a central law under Article 131.
  • Thesecond judgment – State of Jharkhand Vs State of Bihar – took the opposite view in 2015 and referred the question of law to a larger Bench of the Supreme Court for final determination. Kerala’s plaint relies on the 2015 verdict.

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