Before the Centre rolls out a plan to compile a countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) on the lines of the document compiled in Assam, it will have to decide a common cut-off date, a senior government official said.
Home Minister Amit Shah reiterated his stand on a wider NRC exercise a few days ago in Kolkata when he said “all infiltrators will be thrown out” while assuring six non-Muslim communities from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan that the “BJP government will bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill before NRC.” The Bill seeks to provide citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsis and Christians from the three neighbouring countries.
The official said that under Article 6 of the Constitution, the cut-off date for migration to India from Pakistan is July 19, 1948. “There are other provisions like citizenship by birth and naturalisation as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. Several States are demanding NRC but States are competent enough to detect and deport foreign nationals,” said the official. In Assam, the cut-off date for inclusion in the updated NRC is March 25, 1971, as spelt out in the Assam Accord.
The Assam NRC was monitored by the Supreme Court. The final list published on August 31 excluded 19 lakh out of 3.29 crore applicants in the State.
According to Vice-Chancellor of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), Hyderabad, Faizan Mustafa, the date to acquire Indian citizenship for those who migrated from Pakistan is 1948 only. They become citizens automatically and those who came after that date, need a registration.
“First, the constitutionality of cut-off date should be determined. If tomorrow, the SC that is examining the NRC, says that the cut-off date for Assam should be 1948 and not 1971, then the entire exercise will be futile,” Mr. Mustafa said.
A civil society group, the Tripura People’s Front, filed a petition in the Supreme Court in October 2018 seeking an NRC exercise in the State by taking July 19, 1948 as the cut-off date.
The petition said the “uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Tripura has caused huge demographic changes... the indigenous people who were once the majority has now become a minority in their own land.” The group filed a subsequent petition in the Supreme Court opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that negates the purpose of the NRC as it allows citizenship to all illegal non-Muslims from the three neighbouring countries who came in till December 31, 2014.
The Bill in its earlier form lapsed in the Rajya Sabha. The government has hinted that a modified Bill will be introduced in the winter session of Parliament.
In January, responding to the petition, the Home Ministry filed an affidavit that adequate laws existed to “detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants.”
As per norms, the power to identify and deport the foreign nationals staying illegally in the country have also been delegated to the State governments.
Nagaland has also proposed compiling a register of indigenous Naga inhabitants to “safeguard the State from outsiders.” A June 29 notification issued by Nagaland government proposed the cut off date for entry in the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) as December 1, 1963, the day Nagaland acquired Statehood. Some groups however, have demanded that the date be revised according to a 1977 notification which said that indigenous inhabitant certificate be issued only in cases when the person settled in Nagaland or bought a property prior to 1963.