GUWAHATI, Nov 3 - The issue of ‘Original Inhabitants’, which has now become a contentious one because of some political parties and organisations demanding its deletion from the ‘Verification Team’s Report’ (VTR) in the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), was defined and settled by a two-member Judges’ Committee in January 2016.The Judges’ Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court of India for the purpose of looking into the legal issues entangled in the process of updating the vital document, comprised former Gauhati High Court Judges D Biswas and DN Chowdhury.
According to records available with this newspaper, the Judges’ Committee in its January 7, 2016 report had stated: “… In the matter of preparation of the NRC in the State of Assam, it has to be as per the special provision as made in Rule 4A(4) of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 as amended.
“Rule 3(3) of the Schedule of Rule 4A enjoins the names of persons who are original inhabitants of the State of Assam and their children and descendants, who are citizens of India, shall be included in the consolidated list, in the citizenship of such persons is ascertained beyond reasonable doubt and to the satisfaction of the registering authority.”
It further maintained that it is the solemn duty and responsibility of the registering authority to ascertain and determine as to whether a person is a citizen of India and this issue is to be determined conclusively in strict compliance of the statutory provisions, without any shadow of doubt to the full satisfaction of the authority concerned.
“The ‘Remark’ column has been provided upon due deliberation to ascertain the information as to whether a person is an original inhabitant (OI) or ‘D’ voter (DV) or Declared Foreigner (DF) in terms of mandate of Rule 8 of Citizenship Rules, 2003. The term ‘original inhabitants of the State of Assam’ as enjoined in Rule 3(3) of Schedule to Rule 4A is clear and transparent without any ambiguity.
“In plain English, the term ‘Origin’ is noun and ‘Original’ is adjective, that it pertains to the origin or the beginning – the source from which anything arises or is derived. ‘Origin’ indicates the country, race or social class of persons. ‘Inhabitant’ indicates a person who is a permanent inhabitant of a particular place or region. The term ‘Original Inhabitant’ seemingly does not have any obscurity or vagueness. Therefore, deletion of ‘Remark’ column from VTR does not arise,” said the Judges’ Committee on January 7, 2016.
‘D’ voters: Regarding including names of ‘D’ voters and their progenies in the updated NRC, as raised by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) before the Judges’ Committee on December 18, 2015, the Committee referred to the October 25, 2013 order of the Supreme Court of India passed in the Writ Petitions No 274 of 2009 and 262 of 2012. In that order, the apex court had held that the names of voters in the ‘D’ list cannot be included unless the NRC is updated and unless the Foreigners’ Tribunal declares them as Indian citizens.
“The order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly indicates that the names of ‘D’ voters can find an unencumbered entry into the NRC only when the Foreigners’ Tribunal declares them to be citizens of India,” said the Judges’ Committee in its report issued on January 5, 2016.
Following the Judges’ Committee’s reports, the State Coordinator, NRC, Assam had also issued a clarification stating that in the draft and the final NRC to be published, nobody will be shown as original inhabitant or otherwise and will be identified in only one category, which is citizenship.
It is alleged that some parties and organisations which have been raising these issues, maintained total silence on the Judges’ Committee’s report and the State Coordinator’s clarification. When contacted, All Assam Students’ Union chief advisor described these organisations’ present act as “misleading”. He also described their stand on the above issues as contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of India.
He reiterated the AASU demand for updating the NRC with the names of only genuine Indian citizens. The document should be free from the names of Bangla nationals, he asserted.