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National Register of Citizens (NRC)

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

What to study?

For Prelims: Particulars of NRC.

For Mains: Update of NRC- issues associated including ethical concerns.

Context: Union Home Ministry has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that preparation of NRC is a “necessary exercise for any sovereign country for mere identification of citizens from non-citizens.”

Basis for NRC- observations of Home Ministry:

  • 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.

Background:

More than a dozen States have vociferously opposed the updating of National Population Register (NPR), slated to begin on April 1 along with the house listing phase of the Census. According to Citizenship Rules 2003, NPR is the first step towards the compilation of the NRC.

Concerns now:

There are fears that the CAA, followed by a country-wide NRC, will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. The government has denied that CAA and NRC are linked.

How it would be carried out?

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.

Why this is worrisome?

Assam’s example: This is an exercise fraught with risks, as the example of Assam shows. The process in the state has been mired in inaccuracies, with low but worrying odds of legal citizens being declared illegal residents in their own country.

Need of the hour:

  • 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.

What is NRC?

  • 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.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Relation between Census and NPR.
  2. NPR vs NRC.
  3. How NRC is related to Assam accord.
  4. Constitutional provisions wrt to grant and revocation of citizenships.
  5. Who carries out Census?

Mains Link:

Discuss why a nationwide NRC exercise may not be feasible.

Sources: the Hindu.