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SC seeks govt response to three Bihar residents' plea to quash NPR notification

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on Monday sought the government’s response on a petition filed by three residents of Bihar to quash a Ministry of Home Affairs notification for the conduct of the National Population Register (NPR) exercise from April to September 2020.

A Bench led by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde issued formal notice to the government on the petition filed by Udagar Ram, from Madhubani district in the State, and two others.

“The entire exercise of creation and updation of the National Population Register is a gross invasion of privacy of private citizens. The nature of the exercise is manifestly arbitrary with no grounds of ‘doubtfulness’ being specified apart from no guarantee of protection and security of the data/information so collected. Such a database would erode basic freedoms that the persons within India currently enjoy,” the petition, represented by advocate M.R. Shamshad, contended.

The petition said Section 14-A of The Citizenship Act, 1955, and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, and the Home Ministry notification of July 31, 2019, for conduct of the NPR are violative of the fundamental rights of the Constitution.

It said through the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, the State seeks to invade the privacy of private persons without first establishing that they were acting in an unlawful manner.

There is no probable cause for the State to inquire into the personal details of a private citizen unless an investigation has revealed that the entire population has acted in an unlawful manner, the petition said.

Further, the unlawful State Action of creation and updation of the NPR under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 is sought to be piggy-backed on the exercise of the first phase of Census of India, 2021.

“Needless to say that the Census is carried out under a wholly different authority, i.e. the Census Commissioner under the aegis of the Census Act, 1948. The Census Act, 1948, also provides that no information collected during the census would be used in civil or criminal proceedings nor would be disclosed, the information collected under the NPR exercise is not guaranteed the same protection,” the petition said.

The Census Act also makes it mandatory for the person to answer the questions asked by a Census Officer, there is no such compulsion in the NPR updation/creation exercise and the NPR Manual does not instruct field workers to clarify the same to persons being asked questions.

Further still, the information being collected under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 is not guaranteed any protection from misuse under the Rules.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 9:22:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-seeks-govt-response-to-plea-by-three-bihar-residents-to-quash-npr-notification/article30664414.ece

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