- GS-2: Citizenship, Federalism
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Done and dusted: On NRC process
Context: Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Karimganj district of southern Assam, while removing the ambiguity around a man’s citizenship, has pronounced that there is no doubt that the NRC published on August 31, 2019, is the final one.
What is the background of National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
- At its core, the NRC is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens. It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.
- The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until recently.
- So far, such a database has only been maintained for the state of Assam.
- In 2014, the SC ordered the updation of the NRC in Assam.
- The main purpose for updating of the NRC in Assam was the identification of the illegal immigrants in the state who had migrated to Assam from Bangladesh during the 1971 war with Pakistan.
- One of the basic criteria for identification was that the names of the family members of the applicant should be present in the NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up till March 24, 1971.
- The entire updation process was executed by the Assam’s administrative machinery.
- In the run-up to the publication of the final document, Assam and the Centre had petitioned the Supreme Court for re-verification of a sample of names included in the draft NRC — 20% in the border districts and 10% elsewhere — but this was dismissed after the State NRC Coordinator, said re-verification of 27% names had been already done.
- Final NRC was published on 31st Aug 2019 (Supreme Court deadline). The list left out over 1.9 million from a list of around 33 million applicants. The citizenship of those who have been left out would be determined at the Foreigner’s Tribunals
What are the challenges post publication of NRC?
- Political Opposition: NRC publication on 31st Aug 2019 has annoyed political parties across the ideological divide, with some alleging it victimised document-less Bengali Hindus and indigenous Assamese people and others alleging that it targeted the State’s Bengali-origin Muslims.
- Re-verification demand: In May 2021, the State NRC authority has filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking re-verification of the August 31, 2019 list, citing inclusion and exclusion errors.
- Assam Chief Minister has on record stated that the State government wants 20% re-verification in the districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in others.
- Another repetition of the NRC even on smaller scale, whether led by the judiciary or the executive, would rely on the same administrative set-up.
- Slow post-publication progress: On the execution side, the issuance of rejection slips to those left out of the NRC has not begun, a necessary step to file appeals in the Foreigner Tribunals.
- Legal Approval awaiting: Also, a Registrar General of India notification has not conferred the stamp of legality on the NRC yet.
Providing legal stamp on NRC and kick-starting the appeals process is perhaps the most prudent path ahead.
Connecting the dots:
- Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
- Assam Protests against CAA, 2019