The Kerala government on Tuesday filed an original suit in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, seeking that the Act be struck down and held unconstitutional. The Kerala government in its suit stated that it was doing so under Article 131 of the Constitution. Article 131 of the Constitution talks about the original jurisdiction that the Supreme Court has to hear disputes between states and the Centre.
Original jurisdiction is when a suit is filed in the Supreme Court without going to the lower courts first, constitutional expert Subash Kashyap explains. “Usually, only appeals are filed in the Supreme Court but Article 131 gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction when it comes to disputes between the Centre and the States or disputes among the states. So, the Kerala government has invoked this Article to file its suit in the Supreme Court directly,” Kashyap tells TNM.
Under the Constitution, the states are not allowed to take any action which undermines or ‘impede’ the powers of the Centre. The Centre tells the States which laws to implement and how they are to be implemented. However, under Article 131 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is given the power to step in between any dispute between the states and the Centre.
Here’s what Article 131 of the Constitution says: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute that is between a) the Government of India and one or more States, b) between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other, or c) between two or more States.” In case of the dispute between two or more states, the Article says that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction as far as the dispute is about a legal right.
The suit by the Kerala government comes under clause (a) of the Article. Kerala has become the first state in India to challenge the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and hence an original suit was filed in the court. Before this, several writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking that the CAA be held unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court may choose to hear the writ petitions separately or club them together and Kerala government’s suit will not clash with the petitions already filed.
The Supreme Court earlier stated that it will hear the petitions against the CAA “once the violence in the country stops.” It also recently struck down a petition seeking that the CAA be “declared constitutional,” stating that the country is already going through a difficult time and such petitions do not help.