Assam’s National Register of Citizens
Assam Public Works v Union of India
The Court monitored how the State Coordinator updated Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC), so as to ensure that the NRC was published as mandated by the Assam Accord of 15 August 1985.
Petitioner: Assam Public Works
Lawyers: Mr Kapil Sibal; Mr Salman Khurshid; Ms Indira Jaising; Mr Sidharth Luthra
Respondent : Union of India
Lawyers: Attorney General K K Venugopal; ASG Tushar Mehta
Intervenor : All Assam Minority Students Union
Are the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003 being complied with, in implementing the NRC?
Has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) been established to allow refiling of documents and address objections for residents excluded from the draft NRC list?
Assam is the only Indian State that has a NRC, a register that contains the list of all Indian citizens in Assam bearing their name, address and photograph. Assam has a high number of immigrants from Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). In 1951, the Ministry of Home Affairs created the NRC to distinguish citizens from illegal immigrants.
In 1985 the Assam Accord was signed, which mandated a second NRC. The Assam Accord ended the six-year-long Assam Agitation, which was a response to the large inflow of migrants during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
The Assam Accord divided migrants into three groups: 1951-61; 1961-71 and after 1971.
- Foreigners who entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
- Entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
- Entrants after 24 March 1971 were to be deported.
After more than 40 years, the State began to update the NRC in 2013, upon the direction of the Supreme Court. A Division Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman closely monitored the process, to ensure that the Government was complying with the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003.
On July 30th 2018, the complete NRC draft was released. As per this draft, around 2,89,83,677 of the total 3.29 crore applications were recognised as Indian citizens. The draft labelled 40,70,707 persons as illegal residents.
Immediately after the draft was published, on July 31st, the Supreme Court directed authorities to abstain from taking coercive action against the 4 million people, whose names did not figure in the NRC, on the grounds that the 30 July NRC was merely a draft.
On August 14th 2018, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that distinct IDs will be created for the 4 million people filing claims and objections against the 30 July draft. The distinct IDs will contain biometric information.
The Court directed that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for filing objections to the NRC list should be examined by stakeholders and petitioners in the current litigation. The Court named eight stakeholders — Assam Public Works, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (an indigenous people’s organisation of Assam), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive), Indigenous Tribal Peoples Federation, All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Joint Action Committee for Bangali Refugees, All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) and Jamait Ulama-i-Hind – for the purpose.
It then continued to monitor the State as it updated the draft NRC, taking into account objections.
Finally, on August 31st 2019, the final NRC list was published: 19,06,657 out of the 3,30,27,661 applicants were excluded. The Office of the State Coordinator published the list on its website.
A three-judge Bench led by current Chief Justice SA Bobde continues to monitor the situation. In the last hearing on 6 January 2020, it heard pleas regarding children being sent to detention centres.