Current Affairs

Prepare IAS Coaching

Current Affairs

Title : National Register of Citizens - ONLY 1032 DOUBTFUL CASES REFERRED FOR REVIEW

Date : Nov 18, 2021

Description :

What is National Register of Citizens:


  • The NRC is the list of Indian citizens and was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951.


  • The process of NRC update was taken up in Assam as per a Supreme Court order in 2013.


  • In order to wean out cases of illegal migration from Bangladesh and other adjoining areas, NRC updation was carried out under The Citizenship Act, 1955, and according to rules framed in the Assam Accord.



National Register of Citizens in Assam:


  • The issue of its update assumed importance as Assam witnessed large-scale illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and, after 1971, from present-day Bangladesh.


  • This led to the six-year-long Assam movement from 1979 to 1985, for deporting illegal migrants.


  • The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) led the movement that demanded the updating of the NRC and the deportation of all illegal migrants who had entered Assam after 1951.


  • The movement culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.


  • It set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for the deportation of illegal migrants.




National Register of Citizens in Assam:


  • Since the cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949 - to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and a new section was introduced.


  • It was made applicable only to Assam.


  • There had been intermittent demands from AASU and other organisations in Assam for updating the NRC, an Assam based NGO filed a petition at the Supreme Court.


  • In December 2014, a division bench of the apex court ordered that the NRC be updated in a time-bound manner.


Eligibility Criteria for National Register of Citizens in Assam:


  • A person should fulfil the following criteria to be eligible for the NRC:


  • Any persons whose names appeared in the NRC of 1972 or in any of the Electoral Rolls till the date of 24th March 1971 (midnight) as well as their descendants.


  • Persons who had registered themselves as per the rules of the Central Government with the Foreigners Registration Regional Officer (FRRO) and are not considered illegal migrants or foreigners by any authority.


  • A person should fulfil the following criteria to be eligible for the NRC:


  • Any person who had migrated to Assam on or after 1st January 1966 but before 25th March 1971.


  • People who are original inhabitants of Assam and their children and descendants who are citizens of India provided their citizenship is ascertained beyond a reasonable doubt by the registering authority.


  • Persons who can provide any one of the documents issued up to midnight of 24 March 1971 as mentioned in the list of documents admissible for citizenship.



Impact of National Register of Citizens:


  • An updated NRC is likely to put an end to speculations about the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam in particular and the country in general.


  • It will provide a verified dataset to carry out meaningful debates and implement calibrated policy measures.


  • Publication of an updated NRC is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally.


  • The publication of the draft NRC has already created a perception that staying in Assam without valid documentation will attract detention/jail term and deportation.


  • More importantly, illegal migrants may find it even more difficult to procure Indian identity documents and avail all the rights and benefits due to all Indian citizens.


  • Inclusion of their names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.



Views of Central Government on compiling National Register of Citizens at pan India level:



  • It is the responsibility entrusted with the Central government “to identify/detect illegal migrants and thereafter, follow the due process of law”.


  • The Foreigners Act, 1946, confers upon the government the power to expel foreigners from India. 


  • It vests the Central government with absolute and unfettered discretion, and as there is no provision fettering this discretion in the Constitution, an unrestricted right to expel remains.



How the NRC will be carried out at Pan India Level:


  • Details of how such an exercise will be carried out are not yet known.


  • In the case of Assam, there was a cut-off date — March 25, 1971 — after which all foreigners as per the Assam Accord were to be “detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law”.


  • Presumably, the Centre will come out with a cut-off for the nationwide NRC, but it will be an arbitrary one.


  • Flawed Process - People who found themselves on the first list that was released on January 1, 2018, didn’t find their names in the second.


  • Even the family of a former President of India did not mention on the list.


  • The parallel processes of NRC, the voters list of the Election Commission, and the Foreigners’ Tribunals with the help of the Assam Border Police, have led to utter chaos, as none of these agencies are sharing information with each other.


  • Though the draft provides a window for re-verification, due to large number of people being excluded from the list, it will be very difficult to physically verify all of them.


  • Since such ‘non citizens’ can resort to judicial relief to substantiate their citizenship claim, it can lead to overburdening of judiciary which already reels under large number of pending cases.


  • There is uncertainty about the future of those left out from the list.


  • Expelling them to Bangladesh is not an option since Dhaka has never accepted that they are its citizens or that there is a problem of illegal immigration.


  • In the absence of a formal agreement, India cannot forcibly push the illegal migrants back into Bangladesh.




Challenges in compiling NRC:


  • Moreover, raising this issue can also jeopardise relations with Dhaka.


  • Such an attempt would not only damage bilateral relations but also sully the country’s image internationally.


  • Apart from deportation, the other option is large scale detention camps - which is an unlikely option for a civilised democracy like India.


  • Another option is instituting work permits, which would give them limited legal rights to work but ensure they have no political voice.


  • However, it is not clear what will be the fate of children of such individuals.



Way Forward:


  • India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens – contradicting its centuries-followed values.


  • The need of the hour is that Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data and political parties should refrain from coloring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may snowball in to communal violence.


  • There is a need for a robust mechanism of legal support for the four million who have to prove their citizenship to India with their limited means.


  • Any such exercise demands a robust process that minimizes data infirmities.


  • This would mean a complete rehaul of the methods used in Assam.


  • Also, those who don’t make it to the list should get adequate legal recourse.





Subscribe Daily newsletter