Analyze whether India needs a countrywide exercise for NRIC in the light of the recent exercise done in Assam.

Published: December 6, 2019

The Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) is governed by the provisions of Section 14A of The Citizenship Act, 1955 which provides for compulsory registration of every citizen and maintenance of NRIC and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003. 

Section 14A of the Citizenship Act of 1955 provides that the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him. The use of the word ‘may’ followed by the word ‘compulsory’ are at odds with one another.The word “may” should be replaced by ‘shall’ 

Rules authorising NRIC

  • Rule 11 confines the responsibility to the Registrar General for periodic revision of the National Register by updating it with the information available with the Registrar of Births and Deaths. Thus no action or duty is upon the citizens to apply for or prove their citizenship.
  • It is Rule 4 which places the responsibility on the Central Government to carry out a census-like exercise which deals with Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens which entails carrying house to house enumeration. This exercise, seems an explicit exception to what was done in Assam, where residents were to register with a specific cut-off date. 
  • While Rule 6 directly conflicts with the above rules and states that every individual needs to get himself/herself registered with the Local Registrar of Citizen Registrations as per the period specified of the NRIC.

The three rules directly contradict one another.  

Exercise not mandatory – 

  • The NRIC is a redundant exercise in the wake of Aadhar which can be used to track down identity.
  • Under the Foreigners Act of 1946, the burden of proving an individual being a citizen or not rests with the individual applicant and not the state, thus the NRIC exercise will invert the burden of proof to the government. 
  • The NRIC scheme would be a direct violation of the K.S. Puttaswamy judgment. 
  • Not acquiring Aadhar number does not lead to serious penal consequences as in the case of the NRIC i.e loss of citizenship which is a violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The NRIC exercise now seems to inflict a period of insecurity over a billion people with those who are poor are likely to suffer more and being rendered stateless.

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