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Assam NRC: No reopening of exercise or re-verification of data, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today held that there will be no reopening of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise or re-verification of sample data.

In the order passed today, the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman said that the Court has considered the provisions under Section 3 and 6A of the Citizenship Act as well as the prescribed rules under the Act. The Court stated,

“The entire NRC exercise having been performed on the aforesaid basis, the same cannot be now ordered to be reopened by initiation of a fresh exercise on certain other parameters that have been suggested on behalf of the intervenors/applicants.”

Section 6A provides for a special category of citizens in Assam and was inserted in the Act in December 1985 and consequently special rules came to be prescribed for this category which said that all claims for inclusions of all persons in the NRC shall be related to the entry either in the NRC of 1951 or any of the electoral rolls prepared until the midnight of March 24, 1971.

This led to a large number of persons not having been born within the Indian territory acquiring citizenship and the same was agreed upon in the Assam accord, the Court pointed out. Therefore, since the entire NRC process conducted till now had been based on all these provisions, the Court refused to reopen the entire exercise.

As regards the publication of the list of inclusions and exclusions, the Court has passed the following direction,

“Only hard-copies of the supplementary list of inclusions be published at the NRC Seva Centers, Circle Offices and Offices of the District Magistrates of the State. We also direct that the list of exclusions to be published on 31st August, 2019 shall be published only on on-line and shall be family-wise. “

The NRC data shall be protected under a regime on the lines of security regime adopted for the protection of Aadhaar data, the Court said and added that only after this exercise can the list of exclusions and inclusions be made available to the Central and State governments.

Only hard copies of these supplementary lists will be published at the designated centres while the Court also stated that the list of exclusions shall be published online and family-wise.

This effectively means that all persons born after December 3, 2004 will be excluded from the NRC should any of their parents be declared a foreigner by the Tribunal, or if their registered voter status is under doubt.

It has also been clarified that the NRC will be updated based on the orders passed by the Constitution Bench in relation to the question of citizenship. The question for consideration before the Constitution Bench pertains to the interpretation of the phrase “every person born in India”  and whether it will apply to persons born to parents who are Indian citizens.

Last month, the Court extended the deadline for publication of the final version of National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam from July 31 to August 31.

The Court had also declined the plea of Central government and the State of Assam to conduct re-verification of a limited percentage of data to check wrongful inclusions or exclusions, particularly in the districts bordering Bangladesh.

During a previous hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had submitted that while India cannot be the refugee capital of the world, tweaks in the process could be considered so as to ensure that confidence in the process is not affected.

[Read Order]

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