The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre seeking its reply to a petition challenging the government’s notification on the National Population Register, Bar and Bench reported.
In a gazette notification issued on July 31, 2019, the Modi government passed an order to “prepare and update the Population Register” in every state other than Assam. New NPR data is scheduled to be collected from April to September along with the decennial Census exercise. A petition filed by NGO Minority Front challenged the constitutional validity of this circular as well as the amendments to the Citizenship Act.
The bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant sought a response from the Centre. The court may take up this petition on January 22, when it hears a batch of petitions challenging the Citizenship Act.
The petition said the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification on the population register violated several articles of the Constitution. The NPR and CAA “directly hit the basic structure by undermining the principles of secularism, equality (and non-arbitrariness), dignity of life and liberty, pluralism, keeping of international peace and harmony”, the petition added.
The petition added: “The joint effect of the impugned amendment and the Rules is that lakhs of the bonafide Indians are at risk of being declared ‘doubtful citizens’ with the gross injustice of only adherents of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain, and Christians still being given Citizenship under the deeming fiction of refuge from religious persecution.”
Citizenship Amendment Act, NRC and NPR
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it. At least 26 people have died in the protests – 19 in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.
The National Register of Citizens is, on the other hand, a proposed exercise to identify and distinguish undocumented immigrants from Indian citizens. One such exercise, carried out in Assam last year, led to the exclusion of 19 lakh people.
As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-Indian National Register of Citizens which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India. Till now, West Bengal and Kerala have suspended the NPR, while five Congress-ruled states are mulling similar action.