As Mamata And Co Cry Hoarse Against Implementing CAA, NRC; Here’s Why They Have No Choice In The Matter
Different state governments have said that they will not implement the nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The list includes Andhra Pradesh’s Jaganmohan Reddy (YSR) (who interestingly supported the CAA in the Parliament), West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee (TMC), Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot (INC), Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan (CPM) and Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena).
Apart from this, Congress ruled Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have also expressed opposition to nation-wide NRC.
There is no nation-wide NRC exercise as of now. However, the provision for a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) does exist in the Indian statute. No NRIC exercise has been yet announced by the government.
The provision for NRIC was made by the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government at the centre via Citizenship Amendment Act 2003.
It was the discussion on the CAA 2013 in Rajya Sabha in which Manmohan Singh had said that minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution and should be granted citizenship.
The CAA 2003 was passed unanimously in Rajya Sabha. The Congress party had supported the bill. There has been no change in the NRIC provisions since then.
The CAA 2003 says that the the central government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).
It also established a “National Registration Authority” (NRA) for the purpose, and states that the Registrar General of India shall act as the NRA and will function as the Registrar General of Citizen Registration. The Registrar General is also the country’s Census Commissioner.
Does the Citizenship Amendment Act 2003 grant states the discretion to reject NRIC?
The house to house enumeration, as part of the Census, comes under the union government, but the staff of the state government is deployed for the purpose.
The Census Act (as amended in 1994) states:
Every local authority in a State shall, when so directed by a written order by the Central Government or by an authority appointed by that Government in this behalf, make available to any Director of Census Operations such staff as may be necessary for the performance of any duties in connection with the taking of census.
Also, Rule 5 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, says:
Every official of the Central Government, State Government, local bodies or their undertakings shall assist the Registrar General of Citizen Registration or any person authorised by him in this behalf, in preparation of the database relating to each family and every person, and in implementing the provisions of these rules.
It is also important to note that the subject of citizenship, naturalisation and aliens in the Union list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The Constitution of India in Part II also provides Parliament the sole discretion to formulate a law on the subject. State governments don’t have a say in the matter.
What about illegal immigrants?
Under Section 3(2)(c) of The Foreigners Act, 1946, the central government has the power to deport illegal foreign nationals. Under Section 5 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, the central government has the power to remove an illegal foreigner by force.
In reply to an RTI by India Today in 2019, the union government informed that under Article 258(1) and Article 239(1) of the Constitution of India, it had delegated these powers to the state governments and union territories’ administrations respectively.
Therefore, the state governments are legally obligated to implemented NRIC and deport illegal migrants, and the recent announcement of the governments of West Bengal and Kerala to stop implementation of the National Population Register (of usual residents under the Citizenship Act, 1955) is only political.
The Constitution of India clearly states that the states are to ensure the compliance with the laws made by Parliament, and the Union can give directions to them in this regard.
If the state government fails to respect the above constitutional provision, it can count as a constitutional crisis, and President’s Rule can be imposed in the state.
However, practically, a state government, if it doesn’t want to cooperate, can hamper the implementation of the law in other ways.
The biggest example of this is the problem of illegal immigrants in India itself. Despite having the powers to deport, the state governments have gone soft on the illegal immigrants for votebank appeasement.
The situation is so bad, that despite the demographic aggression by illegal immigrants even instigating insurgencies, India doesn’t have a consolidated data on the number of illegal immigrants, where they reside, how many have been deported etc.
The task of implementing the Foreigners Act and Passport Act is in the hands of the state governments, and they are lackadaisical.
There also have been no attempts by non-governmental agencies or academicians to gauge the number of illegal immigrants in India. Result - India has no reliable data on an issue that has been burning for a long time.
What about people saying they won’t show their documents for NRC in solidarity with Indian Muslims?
They have misunderstood the law. The NRIC (not yet announced) + CAA 2019 doesn’t discriminate against any Indian citizen on the basis of the religion, nor it provides any special pathway to Indian Hindus who are excluded from the NRIC. Both Indian Muslims and non-Muslims are treated equally, as explained here.
CAA 2019 only applies to those from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, not Indians.
Secondly, as per the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, it is compulsory on the part of every citizen to assist in the preparation of the National Register of Citizens (the Census Act 1948 also makes it obligatory on the part of every citizen to answer the census question truthfully).
It is important to note that all the above-mentioned provisions have been a part of the statute for a long time, especially the provision for a nation-wide NRC - that was passed in 2003.
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