The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and the Election Commission to respond to a petition seeking the identification of undocumented immigrants in Tripura through the implementation of a National Register of Citizens, Bar and Bench reported. Neighbouring Assam is in the process of updating its National Register of Citizens for the first time since 1951 and released a final draft on July 30, which excluded some 40 lakh people.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph was hearing a petition filed by Tripura People’s Front.

On October 5, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement refuting reports that a register of citizens exercise would be conducted in Tripura, The Hindu reported. “The home minister met a delegation of Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura on October 4,” the statement said. “However, no assurance of any kind was given regarding the implementation of NRC in Tripura.”

On October 6, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb said it was the Centre’s prerogative to decide on a similar exercise for his state. “If the Centre passes a law to implement NRC, I will go for it,” Deb told the gathering at the India Today Conclave East 2018.

The petitioner told the court that the influx of “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh into Tripura was worse than the situation in Assam, Bar and Bench reported. “The exercise in Assam was necessitated due to the persistent illegal influx problem that has plagued the state for over three decades now,” the plea said. “The petitioners respectfully submit that Tripura is worse placed. The uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Tripura has caused huge demographic changes in Tripura which earlier was a predominantly tribal state but now has become a non-tribal state.”

The petition also requested that Foreigners Tribunals and measures to deport undocumented immigrants be put in place. It recommended increased patrolling along the Tripura-Bangladesh border.

Assam’s National Register of Citizens

The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from “illegal migrants” who might be living in the state. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner.

Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.

Despite the continuing unrest over the recently-released final draft of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and accusations of vote bank politics, several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have demanded a similar counting exercise in other states.