New Delhi: Union law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in an interview to the Indian Express, said that the “entire legal process” will be followed in updating the National Population Register (NPR) and the implementation of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC). He also said that there will be consultations with state governments and feedback will be taken. On the documents required for NRC, he said there would be a public declaration after the process starts under Rule 3 and Rule 4 of Citizenship Rules, 2003. He didn’t specify when the NRC process would start.
Prasad’s remarks are significant as many states, including BJP ally JDU in Bihar, have also opposed a nation-wide NRC and at least two states have paused the process of updating the NPR. After protests erupted against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) across the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also claimed that the nationwide NRC isn’t in the works at all.
On the question of NPR data being used for NRC, he said: “some may be used or some may not be used”. This comes days after home minister Amit Shah claimed in an interview to news agency ANI that there is no link between the NPR and NRC. “There is no link between NRC and NPR, I am clearly stating this today,” Shah had said.
Prasad answered many questions regarding the CAA, NRC and NPR. He called the CAA “perfectly constitutional and legal”, citing Article 246 of the Indian Constitution which he says empowers the parliament to “make laws in any of the matters enumerated in List 1 of the seventh schedule, and entry 17 of this list talks about citizenship, naturalisation and aliens”.
On being asked if it doesn’t violate fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution, he responded by saying that the CAA is not related to any Indian at all as it doesn’t give or take away citizenship from anyone, including Muslims. “…persons who have been persecuted because of faith, in the three countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are being given citizenship in India….These persecuted groups because of the faith form a reasonable group by themselves and this reasonable classification has a nexus with the object of the law,” he said.
Questions have been raised by many legal experts, journalists and opposition parties on the new data points being introduced in the NPR which ask for details of parents and their place of birth, alleging its the first step towards a nationwide NRC. On being questioned on the same, Prasad said that since Census data of individuals can’t be made public to any authority, NPR was needed to frame policies for the delivery of welfare schemes. Curiously, there was no explanation about why the NPR was needed when the Aadhar project intends to do the same thing.
On the fear among Muslims that Hindus who are out of the NRC can use the CAA to become citizens while they would be excluded, he reiterated that the CAA wasn’t applicable to Indians and no Indian could become a citizen or denied citizenship because of the law.