National Register of Citizens

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What is NRC?

  • NRC is an official record of those who are legal Indian Citizenship. Its purpose is to document all the legal citizens of India, so that the illegal immigrants can be identified and reported.
  • As Assam being boarder state the people of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was illegally migrated to Assam during 1971 war with Pakistan. It implement first in North Eastern state of Assam. The register was first prepared after the 1951 census of India, whose creation is mandated by the 2003  of the Citizenship Act, 1955, NRC was tried to implement in 2010 also into 2 Sub division is process but due to some disputes, this process was stopped within 4 Weeks. It has been implemented for the State of Assam starting in 2013 -2014.
  • The Supreme Court of India struck it down as unconstitutional in 2005, after which the Government of India agreed to update the Assam NRC. It was during a Parliamentary Home Minister Amit Shah declared an extension of NRC to the entire Country.

When was the NRC Bill passed?

  • The Bill was introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha by the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah on a December 2019 and was passes on 10 December 2019, with 311 MPS voting in favour and 80 against the Bill. The Bill was passes by the Rajya Sabha on 11 December 2019 with 125 votes in favour and 105 votes against it.

Legal Citizen of India (Criteria):

  • According to Citizenship Act 1955:
  • On or after the 26th day of January 1950, but before the 1st day of July 1987.
  • On or after the 1st day of July 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth.
  • According to Citizenship Act 2003:
  • Both of his Parents are Citizen of India.
  • One of whose Parents is a Citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.

Assam Movement (1979 -1985):

  • Assam Movement was led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) after this known by the name of All Assam Gana Sangram Parisad (AAGSP). This Movement demanded that Illegal Migrants should be detected, detention and deported till election is not held. But this was not given too much attention at that time. On December 1979 this Assam Movement up raised again when election came into process. About 40 Lakh Voter list was added and with same electoral role. In Assam fro 14 seats of Lok Sabha, 12 seats remained vacant for3 years. In the President ship of Indira Gandhi “President Rule” (Article 356) has been implemented in Assam for 3 years.
  • Indira Gandhi, in meeting with Assam, I put the idea that base year should be 1971 foe illegal migrant but AAGSP was not satisfied by it. AAGSP boycott the election and for this, they went to the prison. For the first time IAS and Soliders called to hold the election. IMDT Act implemented in Assam in October 1983 by Indira Gandhi.

Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunal Act, 1983):

  • IMDT Act described the procedures to detect illegal immigrants and expel them from Assam. The Act was pushed through mainly on the grounds that it provided special protections against undue harassment to the “minorities” affected by the Assam agitation. It was applicable to the state of Assam only whereas in other states, detection of foreigners is done under Foreigners Act, 1946. The Act made it difficult to deport illegal immigrants from Assam.

Rules of IMDT:

  • Illegal Migrant can be complained only when he reside within 3 km radius of the accuser.
  • Only 2 complaints would be taken into consideration against accused person.
  • Accusers have to pay fee of 25 rupees to fill out complaint form.
  • If a suspected illegal migrant is thus successfully accused, he is required by the act to simply produce a ration card to prove his Indian Citizenship.

                                    In IMDT the onus of proof is based on state.                

Cancellation of IMDT:

  • As onus of proof was based on State, in Assam whereas it as based on accused person at other states that’s why Assam Government was against the rule of IMDT. Assam Government, Indian Government and Law Commission wanted to cancel the IMDT. But Congress Government denied it. They Said detection of illegal migrant should be based on IMDT. In 2003 NDA passed a Bill to cancel IMDT in Lok Sabha but due to minority of voters in Raya Sabha , it did not cancel till 2004 and Lok Sabha was also dissolved at that time. Except Assam, the foreigners rule was implemented all over India so in 2005 Supreme Court ultravirus IMDT or cancelled it completely.

Assam Accord:

  • The Assam Accord was a memorandum of settlement (MOS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Government. In the presence of Rajiv Gandhi on 15 August 1985. They feared the past and continuing large scale migration was over whelming the native population, impacting their political rights, culture, language and land rights. The Assam Movement caused the estimated death of over 855 people. The movement ended with the signing of the Assam Accord. According to Clause 5 the leaders of the Assam movement agreed to accept all migrants who had entered into Assam prior to January 1 1966. Further, the Government agreed to identify and deport any and all refuges and migrants after March 25 1971. In 1971 , millions of citizens of Bangladesh then called East Pakistan fled the abuses of a civil war and associated genocide between  East Pakistan and West Pakistan triggering mass illegal migration into Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, various other nearby states of India as well as Myanmar.
  • All open police charges against the participants and the leaders of the Assam Movement, prior to and on the date of signing the Accord, were also withdrawn and closed. The families of those who died during the Assam Movement were given monetary compensation. The Government also agreed to open an oil refinery, reopen paper mills and establish educational institutions in the state. The accord bought an end to the Assam movement. In 1997 the State Government completed a study and marked numerous names in its voter list with “d” meaning “disputed citizenship” with plans to block them from voting. The supporters of the Assam Movement states that the government has failed to implement the Assam Accord.

 Why Update NRC?

  • Over the past decades, there were demands that the Nation Register of Citizenship should be updated in Assam. These demands stemmed in the wake of cross – border illegal migration into Assam, primarily from Bangladesh, which has been repeatedly resented by the locals.
  • Identification, detention and deportation of such immigrant were a major demand over which the All Assam Students Union (AASU) launched a 6 year movement which ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
  • To prove the Citizenship people in Assam have to show document any evidence that they or their ancestors were born in Assam before March 25, 1971, which has been set as the cut-off.
  • The government says, “The NRC when updated shall become an important legal document to fall back upon for a citizen with reference to his/her status of Indian Citizenship”.

Assam NRC 2019:

  • The process of updating Assam’s part of NRC started in 2013 when the Supreme Court of India passes an order for it to be updated. Since then, the Supreme Court (bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogai and Rohinton Fali Nariman) monitored it continuously. The entire proccess was conducted by Prateek haela, an IAS, who has been designated as the state coordinator of National Registration, Assam.
  • Article 144:

According to Article 144 Supreme Court can take help from Judiciary officer and IAS officer in NRC process.

 NRC Process:

  • For NRC process service center was opened containing digital technology each and every place of Assam 2 Nodal center were also associated to manage these service centers.
  • Legacy data was made according to that the person who had Citizenship Certificate, document of property and the name of his/her parents in voter list is the legal citizen of India.
  • This data was send to the service centers for the help of illiterate person.
  • The data was available in English, Bangla and Assams languages.
  • After resolving all the objections the NRC was updated and application was submitted. The final updated NRC for Assam, published 31 August 2019, contained 31 million names out of population. It left out about 1.9 million applicants, who seem to be divided roughly equally between Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims and other Hindu from various parts of India.
  • The one advisor to Prime minister of Bangladesh has indicated that Bangladesh will take back any of its citizens residing in any neighboring nation including India if evidence is provided. While prime minister of Bangladesh called it an internal matter of India.

How is NRC related to CAA?

  • The proposed nationwide NRC, which till now remains just a proposal, if implemented will target illegal immigrants in India. But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist Jains and Paris coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t be affected, if they claim they have arrived in India after fleeing religious presentation. Moreover, may also fear that Indian Muslims may be deemed illegal immigrants if they are unable to furnish adequate proof of citizenship as they are not included in the Citizenship Amendment Act.

What has the Government said about linking CAA to NRC?

  • As of now, the government has vehemently denied the use of the CAA for the updation of the NRC. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the National Register of Citizens (NRC), carried out in Assam, was not a religion based exercise.
  • “No Indian will be sent out of the country. I want to tell the minorities that special facility will be made for them and also other people (for the NRC). But I also want to ask should we keep our borders open for illegal immigrants?” he said.
  • “Whenever the NRC will come, no person of the minority community will face injustice but no infiltrator will be spared,” shah said.
  • Even Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said “NRC hasn’t been finalized yet. There is no question of joining CAA with NRC as the draft is yet to be completed.”

Link between NPR and NRC:

  • The National population register or NPR was mentioned for the first time only in the rules. The rules also established a clear link between NPR and NRC. The NRC begins with a register of residents the population register; out of which a citizenship registry – a register of all Indian citizens will be created.

What challenges lie ahead?

  • Claims:
  • The list published is the first draft, and with verification of the remaining applicants subsequent draft would be published. However, if a citizen’s name is missing, he /she can file an objection (with requisite documents) and request that the name be included. Given the further claims, a security challenge could possibly emerge when the process of updating the NRC gets completed.
  • Post Marriage Migration:
  • Nearly 29 lakh women, who have migrated after marriage, have claimed for residency status. Their claim is supported by certificates issued by gram Panchayat secretaries and executive magistrates.
  • The Supreme Court has clarified that while these documents could be allowed, it could by no means be taken as proof of citizenship.
  • The challenge lies in verifying the authenticity of the certificates the link between the claimant and the legacy person (who has to be a citizen).
  • Citizenship Bill:
  • The centre is pushing for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. It seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis who have entered Assam illegally post 1971.
  • Various groups have opposed identification of illegal migrants on the bases of religion.
  • This unresolved Citizenship related issue could further pose a challenge for the positive outcome of the NRC, even if completed.

What is the significance?

  • Assam is the only state that had prepared an NRC in 1951. It has also now become the first state to get the first draft of its own updated NRC. The Register is meant to establish the credentials of a bonafide citizen as distinguished from a foreigner. This is to detect Bangladeshi migrants who may have illegally entered Assam after the midnight of March 224, 1971. This cut –off date was originally agreed to in the 1985 Assam Accord.

Can any Hindu, if out of NRC, hold the citizenship Amendment Act as a shield?

  • In Parliament, Home Minister shah did present it as a shield for Hindus left out of the Assam NRC. He said all other legal proceeding will stand abated. When an individual applies for citizenship under CAA. Without CAA, everyone left out of the NRC would have eventually faced, or is already facing, proceedings in Assam’s Foreigners Tribunals.
  • However, it is not clear whether the same shield will be available to Hindus left out of NRC in other states. Even in Assam, it brings up a contradiction. This was raised by Congress MP Kapil Sibal who, in Rajya Sabha, brought up how a Hindu in Assam who is left out of NRC can use the Citizenship Law as a shield.
  • “You know what they’ve said in their legacy papers?  That they are residents of India. You are forcing them by law to lie that they were persecuted and came from Bangladesh”, Sibal said.

Assam Public Works vs. Union of India

  • Parties Involved
  • Petitioner
  • Assam Public Works
  • Respondent :
  • Union of India
  • Intervenor :
  • All Assam Minority Students Union
  • Lawyers
  •  Petitioner :
  • Mr. Kapil Sibal; Mr. Salman Khurshid; Ms Indira Jaising; Mr. Sidharth Luthra
  • Respondent :
  • Attorney General K K Venugopal; ASG Tushar Mehta

Case description:

  • The Court monitored how the State Coordinator updated Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), so as to ensure that the NRC was published as mandated by the Assam Accord of 15 August 1985.                                                                           

Background

Assam is the only Indian State that has a NRC, a register that contains the list of all Indian citizens in Assam bearing their name, address and photograph. Assam has a high number of immigrants from Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). In 1951, the Ministry of Home Affairs created the NRC to distinguish citizens from illegal immigrants.

In 1985 the Assam Accord was signed, which mandated a second NRC. The Assam Accord ended the six-year-long Assam Agitation, which was a response to the large inflow of migrants during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

The Assam Accord divided migrants into three groups: 1951-61; 1961-71 and after 1971.

  • Foreigners who entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
  • Entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Entrants after 24 March 1971 were to be deported.
  • On 30 July 2018, the complete NRC draft was released. As per this draft, around 2, 89, 83,677 of the total 3.29 crore applications were recognized as Indian citizens. The draft labeled 40, 70,707 persons as illegal residents.
  • Immediately after the draft was published, on 31 July, the Supreme Court directed authorities to abstain from taking coercive action against the 4 million people, whose names did not figure in the NRC, on the grounds that the 30 July NRC was merely a draft.
  • On 14 August 2018, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that distinct IDs will be created for the 4 million people filing claims and objections against the 30 July draft. The distinct IDs will contain biometric information.
  • The Court directed that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for filing objections to the NRC list should be examined by stakeholders and petitioners in the current litigation. The Court named eight stakeholders — Assam Public Works, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (an indigenous people’s organization of Assam), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive), Indigenous Tribal Peoples Federation, All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Joint Action Committee for Bangali Refugees, All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) and Jamait Ulama-i-Hind – for the purpose.
  • It then continued to monitor the State as it updated the draft NRC, taking into account objections.
  • Finally, on 31 August 2019, the final NRC list was published: 19, 06,657 out of the 3, 30, 27,661 applicants were excluded. The Office of the State Coordinator published the list on its website.
  • A three-judge Bench led by current Chief Justice SA Bobde continues to monitor the situation. In the last hearing on 6 January 2020, it heard pleas regarding children being sent to detention centers.

NRC Case: Constitutionality of Section 6-A Citizenship Act still under the judicial lens

In the background of the recent exercise on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, one particular issue comes to mind. A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is yet to determine the constitutionality of Section 6-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

But first, a little history.

When the Government of India Act was promulgated in 1935, Assam was stated to be a Governor’s Province under Section 46(1).

It was in this scenario that the Foreigners Act of 1946 was enacted, under which the burden of proving whether a person was a foreigner or not lay upon such person.

Further, at the commencement of the Constitution of India, Article 5 laid down that  every person who has his domicile in the territory of India and–

  1. who was either born in the territory of India; or
  2. either of whose parents were born in the territory of India; or
  3. who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement

Shall be a citizen of India.

As an exception, Article 6 (which deals with rights of citizenship of certain persons who have migrated to India from Pakistan) assigned19.07.1948 as the baseline for being citizens of India.

In the meantime, the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 was enacted to protect the indigenous inhabitants of Assam. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of this Act reads:

“During the last few months a serious situation had arisen from the immigration of a very large number of East Bengal residents into Assam. Such large migration is disturbing the economy of the province, besides giving rise to a serious law and order problem. The bill seeks to confer necessary powers on the Central Government to deal with the situation.”

It is pertinent to note that during the census of 1951, a National Register of Citizens (NRC) was prepared under a directive of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The same contained village-wise information of each person.

However, it was between 1948 and 1971 that large-scale migrations from the erstwhile East Pakistan to Assam were witnessed. As is well known, West Pakistan commenced hostilities against East Pakistan on March 25, 1971, culminating in the war that dismembered the two parts of Pakistan, giving rise to a new nation, Bangladesh.

The Supreme Court’s Intervention

This chain of events prompted a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam to intervene in 2009, in response to a petition filed by a Guwahati-based civil society group known as Assam Public Works. This group volunteered to undertake the Herculean exercise of updating the NRC.

Consequently, in 2014, the Division Bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi (as he then was) and Justice RF Nariman approved the modalities for the NRC update. The same was arrived at by the state government after a stream of consultations with the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) and the All India Minority Students Union (AAMSU).

Since its involvement, this venerable Bench has been observing the NRC process like a hawk in addition to passing orders from time to time.

Latest Developments

On August 31 this year, a supplementary list of inclusions and exclusions was uploaded, thereby excluding over 19 lakh persons out of 3.3 crore applicants (in contrast to the draft list published last year which had excluded nearly 40 lakh persons).

In view of this outcome, attention must be drawn towards the root of the matter and what lies ahead.

The origin of the NRC process lies in the 1985 Assam Accord entered into between the Rajeev Gandhi-led Union Government with the leaders of Assam. A part of para 5 of the Accord was given statutory recognition by Section 6-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

On the touchstone of Section 6-A, citizenship of persons was to be determined based on the criteria supplied hereunder:

  1. All those persons who came to Assam on or after January 1, 1966, but before March 25, 1971 from the specified territory [meaning, territories included in Bangladesh immediately before the commencement of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 1985], are residents of Assam, and shall register themselves under Section 18 of the Act.
  2. A person so registered shall have the same rights and obligations as a citizen of India (including the right to obtain a passport).
  3. Further, a person so registered shall be deemed to be a citizen of India for all purposes (emphasis supplied).

Thus, it becomes evident that Section 6-A did not merely grant refugee status to those who were illegal migrants from East Pakistan, but went on to grant them the benefit of Indian citizenship. All persons who had migrated to Assam before 1966 and before 25.03.1971 were to become citizens of India either immediately or after a period of ten years (once there has been a determination that they have in fact settled in India between 1966 and 1971).

Coming now to what lies ahead, the Supreme Court Division Bench vide its judgment dated December 17, 2014, framed thirteen substantial questions. Out of these, two questions are of particular interest:

“(i) whether Section 6A violates Article 355? What is the true interpretation of Article 355 of the Constitution? Would an influx of illegal migrants into a State of India constitute “external aggression” and/or “internal disturbance”? Does the expression “State” occurring in this Article refers only to a territorial region or does it also include the people living in the State, which would include their culture and identity?

(ii) Whether Section 6A violates the basic premise of the Constitution and the Citizenship Act in that it permits Citizens who have allegedly not lost their Citizenship of East Pakistan to become deemed Citizens of India, thereby conferring dual Citizenship to such persons?”

Following the framing of these substantial questions as to the interpretation of the Constitution, the case will now be considered by a Constitution Bench.

In view of the above, the author departs from the present Article by alluding to the fact that notwithstanding the current political perception (for instance, Assam will become an Islamic state if NRC is not fixed, as argued by ABVP), the ultimate task lies before the Constitution Bench to determine the constitutionality of Section 6-A, which in the author’s opinion shall ascertain the fate of the illegal migrants who have enjoyed dual citizenship in India without taking the oath of allegiance to the Indian Constitution.

Analysis:

  • This all is a big setup to make the lives of Muslims of this country more miserable than it already is. Someone’s life their family, their future cannot depend upon someone’s word like it is being said that the officer who will go door – to door to collect information during the process of NPR, they will be local officers and they will have the power to label anyone as a “doubtful citizen” will find his whole life being ripped apart time to time. The one term poses such a huge threat to so many lives, the incomprehensible power that is being vested in that one person, the damage that it can do it beyond our thinking.
  • The arresting of peaceful protestors, students and the categorization of society shows their desperation regarding the execution of this plan, something which they will feed off for years to come. If you give Citizenship to migrants in the name of persecuted minorities and you make sure your right – wing affiliated population takes note of it this will bear fruits for years to come, this will create a vote bank that will, in turn, satisfy their greed to be in power for a foreseeable time. Lessons should have learned from what happened in Assam, people who have served in the Army people who have given the highest sacrifice for their motherland they found themselves trapped in this.

Conclusion:

  • If you try to make sense out of this, you will realize that this exercise holds a potential threat to our society if it is misused or if it does not maintain the integrity of justice to all. Putting the lives of millions at risk is not justified by an action, rejecting the international criticism you have receiving for pulling off an absurd and foolish move is not going to repair the damage that has been done. Putting students in jail, beating them ruthlessly, and causing harm to their property are never going to be a justifiable action in the eyes of a right thinking and sane society. Mocking the plight of millions, trying to the apex court is not going to reverse the negative effect of your actions. Giving so much power in the hands of people who will work for you or work on your words, that they can ruin anyone’s life is not going to make you a leader. What will are you taking care of your population, the people who put you in a position to make decisions for their benefit and that are exactly how you should wish to be remembered in history.

Possibility of Nationwide NRC:

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday asserted that the NRC will be introduced throughout India and all illegal immigrants will be thrown out of the country through legal means.
  • He also said that people of the country have given its stamp of approval for the nationwide implementation of the National Register of citizens through the verdict of the 2019 elections. “we had promised to the people of the country in our election manifesto that not only in Assam but we will bring NRC all over the Country and a make a register of the Country’s people, and for others (illegal immigrants) action would be taken as per Law” he said at an event of Hindu daily ‘Hindustan here. The Home Minister said that the full abbreviation of the NRC is National Register of Citizen, not the National Register of Assam.

Is a Nationwide NRC different from the Assam one?

  • So far, the government has not officially called for the updation of the NRC for all of India; hence how this process will be carried is not clear.
  • While in Assam, Citizens were asked to submit the proof of citizenship themselves to NRC Seva Kendras set across the State, it is not sure how the same model will be implemented across the entire Country.
  • Also, the Assam NRC was mandated through a special exception for the State in the Citizenship Act, 2003 and the process was overseen by the Supreme Court. At present, no such guidelines exist for a countrywide updation of the list. If a Nationwide NRC is carried out, it will be under the direction of the Union Government.
  • However, the process similar to the NRC have begun in many States such as the Register of indigenous inhabitants in Nagaland as well as the centre announced National Population Register (NPR) which will contain demographic as well biometric information of citizens.

Author: Kanchan, Banasthali vidyapith

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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