The question of whether registered voters left out of the NRC should be marked as ‘doubtful’ has left the Election Commission (EC) in a tight spot.
An EC officer, when asked whether those excluded could have their voting rights suspended until a Foreigners’ Tribunal decides on their citizenship, told The Sunday Express, “The situation is not a comfortable one.”
The Commission will take an official stand after it formally receives details of the final NRC published on Saturday. Currently, the EC doesn’t know how many out of the 19 lakh are also voters in the state.
“We will also wait and see if the Supreme Court has any observations to make on those left out of the final NRC,” the officer added.
Doubtful or ‘D’ voters are a category of voters in Assam whose citizenship is uncertain or under dispute. The EC introduced this category in 1997 at the time of revising the state’s voter list.
While ‘D’ voters continue to remain on Assam’s electoral roll, they cannot vote in an election unless a Foreigners’ Tribunal decides their case. Around 1.2 lakh ‘D’ voters did not participate in the recent Lok Sabha elections. However, those excluded from the draft NRC were allowed to vote.
Even as the EC examines the question of whether voters left out of the NRC should also be categorised as ‘D’ voters until the issue of their citizenship is settled, it has decided that exclusion from the final NRC will not lead to automatic deletion from the voter’s list.
“The Home Ministry has clarified that not finding a mention on the NRC does not automatically make someone a foreigner. So there’s no question of automatic deletion from the voter’s list based on the NRC,” said another EC officer.
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“There is a separate Act (Representation of the People Act) that guides who are eligible to be included or excluded from the voter’s list. That operates independently of the NRC. We are very clear about that,” said a third officer, on the condition of anonymity.