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Citizenship Bill: Legal expert rejects Govt’s Article 371A defence

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‘Taking shelter behind Art 371A, BEFR will be futile’

Dimapur, January 20: A top legal expert has pooh-poohed the claim of the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progress Party (NDPP) in Nagaland that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has the power under Article 371A to restrict the applicability of the Citizenship (Amendment Bill) 2016 as and when it becomes a law.
In an opinion piece, Senior Advocate Taka Masa Ao opined that Article 371A (1) (a) shall be stretched too far to make a claim that Nagaland Legislative Assembly have the power under Article 371A to restrict the applicability of the Citizenship (Amendment Bill) 2016 as and when it became a law.
“Such a view may not pass the legal scrutiny of reasonableness since the Nagaland Legislative Assembly did not exercised its power as provided in Section 26 of the Act of 1962,” said Taka Masa Ao, who is also an ex-MLA.
Section 26 of The State of Nagaland Act 1962 says, “For the purpose of facilitating the application in relation to the State of Nagaland of any law made before the appointed day, the appropriate Government may, within two years from that day, by order make such adaptations and modifications of the law, whether by way of repeal or amendment, as may be necessary or expedient, and thereupon every such law shall have effect subject to the adaptations and modifications so made until altered, repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or other competent authority.”
He opined that the the BEFR 1873, The Foreigners Act, 1946, and The Citizenship Act, 1955, along with all the amendments over the years are laws within the meaning of law in Article 13 of the Constitution. It was in force in erstwhile Naga Hills Tuensang Area, immediately before the 1st December, 1963.
“These are laws enacted by the Parliament prior to Nagaland statehood. Since it has not been altered, repealed or amended within two years since statehood as provided under Section.26 (2) of the State of Nagaland Act, 1962, it is applicable in the State of Nagaland,” he said.
According to the legal expert, to make a claim that Nagaland Legislative Assembly can still exercise even at this belated stage may create more problems than solving the problems “since much water has been flowed in river Dikhu since statehood.”
“It is also important to remember that Article 371A comes with effect from 01-12-1963. The recent resolution of the State Cabinet to urge upon the Central Government to review the Citizenship (Amendment Bill) 2016, with due respect, it was a halfhearted approach and especially when the Bill is already passed by the Lok Sabha. Any piece meal solution shall be counterproductive at this crucial juncture,” he said.
The Senior Advocate also maintained that to take shelter behind Article 371A and BEFR 1873 shall be self defeating.
According to him, the only permanent solution shall be total scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment Bill) 2016.
“It is respectfully opined that summoning a special session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to discuss the Bill and an assembly resolution urging upon the Government of India to withdraw the Bill could be a way forward and which shall be an eye opener for other north eastern states.” He hoped that the elected representatives shall rise to the occasion by taking a bold and decisive decision showing statesmanship. (Full Text) 
(Page News Service)

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