WITH BARELY 10 days left for the publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Election Commission (EC) is now faced with the legal question whether those excluded should be marked as ‘D’ (Doubtful) voters.
‘D’ voters are a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship is doubtful or under dispute. This category was introduced in 1997 at the time EC was revising the state’s voter list.
While ‘D’ voters continue to remain on Assam’s electoral roll, they cannot vote in an election unless their case is decided by a Foreigners’ Tribunal. Around 1.2 lakh ‘D’ voters did not participate in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. However, those excluded from the draft NRC were allowed to vote.
Exclusion from the NRC does not automatically make someone a foreigner, the Home Ministry clarified Tuesday. However, this still begs the question whether non-inclusion makes a person’s citizenship doubtful. The EC, The Indian Express has learnt, is set to examine this legal question.
According to sources, the Commission will revisit the conditions and legal provisions under which voters in Assam were marked “doubtful” in 1997. “What provision of law allows you to treat him (any voter) as a D voter and deny him the right to vote… that question needs examination,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.
Last year, at the time the draft NRC was published, the then Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat had said that exclusion from the final NRC would not mean “automatic removal” from Assam’s voters list. Rawat had said that a voter, despite her absence from the final NRC, will continue to remain on the state’s electoral roll if she can prove to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) that she has “sufficient documents” to prove three things. That she is a citizen of India, is at least 18 years old on January 2019 and is an ordinary resident in the Assembly constituency she wants to enroll.