People wait to check their names on the final draft of the NRC in Nagaon | PTI
People wait to check their names on the final draft of the NRC in Nagaon | PTI
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Blame for Assam’s NRC chaos lies with the Supreme Court but Narendra Modi, BJP will use it happily

While political parties are carefully working out their strategies on how to milk the issue of Assam’s NRC updation, one institution that will have to share the bulk of blame for making lakhs of citizen-residents insecure is the Supreme Court.

It was the Supreme Court that laid out a roadmap to ensure that the “entire updated NRC is published by the end of January 2016”. The reason that it has been delayed by over two-and-half years is something most political parties welcome privately.

What the court said

The opening line of the December 2014 judgment of the Supreme Court on the petitions challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act was a dead giveaway to which way the court was headed on the issue.

“A Prophet is without honour in his own country. Substitute ‘citizen’ for ‘prophet’ and you will get the gist of the various writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India assailing Section 6A of the Citizenship Act.”

The Section 6A, which came about as a result of the Assam Accord of 1985, deals with the special provision in law with regard to “citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord”.

Also read: Will NRC draft list in Assam send people into an indefinite limbo or do they have legal safeguards?

The court ordered that the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) be updated in a time-bound manner. In doing so, it took the matter out of the hands of the government and, thus, left itself open to the charge of intruding into the domain of the Executive without, perhaps, realising the pitfalls of doing that.

Indian-versus-outsider debate

If anything goes wrong, fingers would be pointed at the apex court, the ground for which has already been laid. Look at the several public pronouncements by senior politicians, including those in the BJP, referring to the fact that the entire exercise of NRC updation is being overseen by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also waded into the contentious debate of Indians-versus-outsiders that has been raging in Assam for decades by expressing concern over “why 67 years after Independence, the Eastern border (Indo-Bangladesh) is left porous”.

The petitions before the Supreme Court raised the plea “that the sovereignty and integrity of India is itself at stake as a massive influx of illegal migrants from a neighbouring country has affected this core constitutional value”.

On illegal migrants & deportation

In its judgment, authored by Justice Rohinton Nariman, the bench, also comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who incidentally hails from Assam, referred the matter to be placed before an appropriate bench to settle important questions of law.

This included whether Section 6A is against the rights of Indian citizens because it “permits a class of migrants to become deemed Citizens of India without any reciprocity from Bangladesh and without taking the oath of allegiance to the Indian Constitution”.

More importantly, the bench “considered the necessity of issuing appropriate directions to the Union of India and the State of Assam to ensure that effective steps are taken to prevent illegal access to the country from Bangladesh; to detect foreigners belonging to the stream of 1.1.1966 to 24.3.1971 so as to give effect to the provisions of Section 6(3) & (4) of the Citizenship Act and to detect and deport all illegal migrants who have come to the State of Assam after 25.3.1971”.

Both the Centre and the Assam government were also “broadly in agreement in respect of the steps that are required to be taken” to deal with the issue.

Also read: Process, purpose and politics: All you want to know about Assam’s NRC

Among other things, the bench, “while taking note of the existing mechanism/procedure for deportation keeping in view the requirements of international protocol”, directed the Union of India to “enter into necessary discussions with the Government of Bangladesh to streamline the procedure of deportation”.

It also asked the government to inform the court about the “result of the said exercise” on the next date of hearing.

Making its intention clear, the bench then went on to say that the “implementation of the aforesaid directions will be monitored” by it after three months. It didn’t stop at that, and ordered: “In the event it becomes so necessary, the court will entrust such monitoring to be undertaken by an empowered committee which will be constituted by this court, if and when required.”

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5 Comments Share Your Views


  1. If Bangladesh refuges to take them back, please keep them, make them citizens. After, all they are human being. But make them swear to Indian Constitution. There is a refugee crisis all over the world at present and all countries should accept refugees. India can accommodate up to 4/5 carores more people without any problem. Now our birth rate has dropped sharply, some more people will not make any difference. The problem of refugees is due to poor are unsafe neighbouring countries and can only be settled by development and peace in all neighbouring countries. Further Indian Muslim should condemn Jihadies and hardliner Muslims of neighbouring countries and ensure that the refugee Muslims do not become agents of Jihad and hardliners in India. Bangladesh and Burma like smaller countries will, of course, deny flatly that these refugees are theirs.

  2. Assam Accord creation of politicians has been voluntarily overtaken by the Highest Judiciary of the land. Whether it is right or wrong is an issue that can be said by a legal expert but for an ordinary citizen like me who is now at 70 plus have worked in Indian Navy, Public Sector undertaking have land and house for which Public Sector Banks have advanced loans which have been adjkusted timely and more now if I am asked to prove my citizenship it is a mockery of Judiciary and democracy and the constitution. It has provided the ruling party a very good stick to beat with while laying all anomalies for which people suffer at the doors of Supreme court. Supreme Court unmindful of the issue that if ever India talked to Bangladesh about people infiltrating into India and asked them that they should take back their citizens? Never. So all these exercise of NRC and it being supervised by the Supreme court is to make a section of people a second class citizen who will not have any rights as per the Constitution.

  3. All non-Muslims who apply to stay can be considered as religiously persecuted refugees. Illegal Muslim migrants should be deported back to Bangladesh, and forcibly. No mercy should be shown. There are about 20 million illegal Bangladeshis in India. Either convert them to Sanatan Dharma or show them the door.

  4. I don’t know the legal position in this case – the columnist may kindly enlighten us – but, all over the world, birth confers citizenship. Children born to parents who have entered India illegally after 24 March 1971 ought to be regarded as Indian citizens. Deporting them would be a travesty. As it would be in humanitarian law – under which Europe is taking in so many people from Syria and its neighbourhood – for their parents and grandparents. Getting Bangladesh to accept four million people after so many years will place the bilateral relationship under intolerable strain. The legal processes leading upto actual deportation will muddy Assam’s waters and clog the judicial system for a long time, placing a lot of people in a grey zone. 2. Reports suggest the illegal influx from Bangladesh has slowed down considerably in recent years. This could be due to both better border management and Bangladesh’s improved economic performance. There are also about a million illegal Indians working in Bangladesh who would face retaliatory moves. More than strict legality, this is now a humanitarian and diplomatic issue. It should be dealt with with statesmanship and compassion. 3. The apex court, for once, has created a very awkward situation. It will be difficult to dismount this tiger from the Sundarbans.


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