SC to Consider Plea to Drop Children from NRC If One Parent’s Citizenship Is Contested

As per a 2003 amendment to the Citizenship Act, a child born after December 3, 2004, is eligible for citizenship if both the parents are Indian citizens or one of them was not an ‘illegal immigrant’ at the time of birth.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that it would take up for consideration – on August 7 – a clarification on the eligibility of children born on or after December 3, 2004 in Assam to be included in the final updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) if either of their parents has been marked as a doubtful voter (D voter) in the state’s electoral list, or been declared a foreigner by a tribunal, or is presently contesting a case related to his/her citizenship in a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) or any other court.

The two-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R. Fali Nariman, stated it on July 23 in response to a clarification sought by petitioners in the ongoing case on the update of the NRC bunched together with a host of other issues related to Assam Accord and its exclusive cut-off date of March 24, 1971 – based on which the register is being revised.

The petitioners sought a clarification from the apex court based on its ruling on July 2, 2018, stating that those persons who are D-voters, or declared foreigners by the tribunals as well as their descendants, were not to be included in the updated NRC. “As descendance can be drawn from either of the parents, clarification appears to be required in cases where one of the parents is clear from all angles while the other parent is a D-voter, or declared foreigner or their cases pending at the Foreigners tribunals or others courts.”

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“It also appears that while deciding eligibility of descendants, provisions of section 3 (1) (b) and (c) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, may be important to take into account, though citizenship purely by birth and not by descendance (section 3(1) (a) is not eligible for inclusion in NRC.”

The petitioners’ plea said that “the substance of section 3 (1) (b) and (c) is that while determining citizenship of any descendant born up to December 3, 2004, citizenship eligibility of any one of the parents suffices, while for those descendants born on or after December 3, 2004, citizenship eligibility of both the parents needs to be taken into account.” 

The court said it would clarify the point on August 7 and asked the NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela to “issue public notice in this regard to enable other stakeholders, in a representative capacity, to appear before the court, if so desired.”

It also stated, “We make it clear that in view of the exercise being time bound, it may not be possible for the court to accept any prayer for adjournment of the matter” in this regard. In the same hearing, the court also extended the deadline for publication of the final NRC from July 31 to August 31.

Assam-based anti-migration organisations like the Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM) have been demanding an amendment to Section 3 of the Act, and instead take note of March 24, 1971 as the date for eligibility in such cases, instead of December 3, 2004. PVM argues that the 2004 date “would only legitimise Bangladeshis and ensure the indigenous people (of the state) become minority by 2040.”

(The earlier story stated that the Supreme Court gave a ruling on July 23 on the petitioners’ plea for a clarification on whether children born after December 3, 2004 in Assam were eligible to be included in the updated NRC if either of the parents was being legally contested. The SC is going to give the clarification on August 7. The story been updated with the correction.)