The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a plea to reopen the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam and directed that to ensure security of the data, an appropriate regime be enacted on the lines of the security regime provided for Aadhaar data.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman ruled that “the list of inclusions and exclusions shall be made available to the State Government, Central Government and Registrar General of India” only after such a regime is put in place.
Assam co-ordinator for NRC Prateek Hajela had requested the court to issue suitable directions for protection of NRC data.
The court also directed that “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”. The bench ordered that “the list of exclusions to be published on 31st August, 2019 (the date set by the court to publish the final NRC) shall be published only on on-line and shall be family-wise”.
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The plea to reopen the exercise had said those born in India between after March 24, 1971 and before July 1, 1987 were not being included in the NRC unless they had ancestral links to India. It referred to section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, which states that every person born in India after January 26, 1950 and up to July 1, 1987 were citizens by birth and added that a different yardstick was being used for those born between 1971 and 1987.
Refusing to allow this, the bench referred to Rule 4A the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 which fixes the outer cut-off date as midnight of March 24, 1971.
“Rule 4A of the 2003 Rules carves out special provisions in the matter of preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in the State of Assam. The provisions of Rule 4A are a departure to the provisions contained in Rule 4 of the 2003 Rules which deals with preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in the rest of the country. Rule 4A(2) specifically provides that the National Register of Indian Citizens in the State of Assam shall be prepared by inviting applications from all the residents calling for specified particulars relating to each family and individual including the citizenship status based on the National Register of Citizens 1951 and the electoral rolls upto the midnight of the 24thday of March,1971,” the order noted.
This rule was necessitated in view of the changes made to the Citizenship Act following the signing of the Assam Accord.
The bench also noted that the question of interpretation of Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act was pending before a Constitution bench and said the NRC will be updated depending on what the Constitution bench decides.
“The issue pending is whether the expression ‘every person born in India’ would apply only to persons born to Indian citizens and whether the expression ‘either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth’ in S.3(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 would apply to only a person who is born to parents one of whom is a citizen and the other a foreigner, provided he or she has entered India lawfully and his/her stay in India is not in contravention of applicable Indian laws…We make it clear that subject to orders as may be passed by the Constitution Bench… National Register of Citizens will be updated.”