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Gram panchayat certificate no proof of citizenship: SC

It is only a supporting document, says the apex court

A certificate of residency issued by a gram panchayat is not a document of citizenship and is “meaningless” unless supported by some other valid record to make a claim for inclusion in the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), the Supreme Court said on Wednesday.

A Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R.F. Nariman said no verification is made before such certificates are issued.

The apex court said it will pass orders on whether the Gauhati High Court was right in invalidating the document for making a claim in the NRC or whether further opportunity needs to be given to the people to establish their claims of citizenship.

“A certificate issued by gram panchayat secretary is not a document for citizenship, rather it is meaningless unless it is supported by some other valid document for claim to NRC. This is only a supporting document and, for it to be valid, there needs to be proper verification,” the Bench said.

Batch of pleas

The apex court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Gauhati High Court order holding that a certificate of residency issued by a gram panchayat (village council) secretary was not a legal and valid document for claim to citizenship.

About 48 lakh claims have been made using certificates issued by gram panchayat secretaries, out of a total of 3.29 crore claims made so far for inclusion in the NRC which is being prepared in Assam to identify illegal migrants.

The draft NRC is required to be published on or before December 31.

NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela had earlier informed the court that out of the 48 lakh claims made for the NRC, 20 lakh were the indigenous people and if the fact of being original inhabitants of the State is established, then no further verification is required.

Senior advocate B.H. Marlapalle, appearing for petitioner Rupajan Begum who has challenged the High Court verdict, said it needs to be considered that many people are illiterates and Muslim marriages were not registered till it was made mandatory and births or deaths are not registered.

“This document is just a supporting document for inclusion in the NRC and the authenticity of the document has to be scrutinised even if the high court order is set aside. People who have made claim on the basis of this document need to be given further opportunity to adduce evidence in support of their claim to the NRC,” the Bench said.

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said without verification, this document cannot be accepted as it only specifies the name of the father, place of residence and nothing else.

The Assam government said the High Court was justified in invalidating the document as it cannot be claim to citizenship.

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Printable version | Jul 8, 2020 2:10:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/gram-panchayat-certificate-no-proof-of-citizenship-sc/article20670242.ece

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