NRC must to identify non-citizens: Govt to SC

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A National Register for Citizens (NRC) was needed to distinguish citizens from non-citizens and the Centre was well within its powers to identify illegal migrants and deport them as per the law, the home ministry contended in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Preparation of a NRC was a necessary exercise for any sovereign country for mere identification of citizens from non-citizens, it contended, without referring to the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which gets underway next month, or the link between the two.

Identification of illegal migrants is a sovereign, statutory and moral responsibility of the government as a principle of governance. It is the responsibility of the Centre to detect illegal migrants and follow due process of law in deporting or expelling them. Such a power conferred by the Foreigners Act, 1946, is absolute and gives unfettered discretion to the government to expel foreigners from India. International laws cannot prevail over municipal laws in this matter, the affidavit, filed in response to court notices on a slew of petitions challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act and NPRNRC exercises, contended.

No illegal migrant can seek a right to settle and reside in India or make any claim for citizenship. Nor can migrants move court to press for any such right. Article 21 may have a vast canvas but it doesn’t cover illegal migrants. The procedure which puts the onus on the person claiming to be citizen to prove the fact, is ‘just’, ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ and has been held so by the courts. There’s a good and sound reason for placing the burden of proof upon the person concerned who asserts to be a citizen of a particular country, it contended.

In order to establish one’s citizenship, one may be required to give evidence of (i) his date of birth (ii) place of birth (iii) name of his parents (iv) their place of birth and citizenship. Sometimes the place of birth of his grandparents may also be relevant like under Section 6A(1)(d) of the Citizenship Act. All these facts would necessarily be within the personal knowledge of the person concerned and not of the authorities. After he has given evidence, the state authorities can verify the facts and rebut them if necessary. If state authorities dispute the claim of citizenship by a person, it will not only be difficult but almost impossible for them to first lead evidence on these points, the affidavit contended.

The government also had similar ‘unfettered powers’ to cancel registration of Overseas Indian Citizenship card holder should one violate Indian laws after hearing them, the home ministry said. OCI cardholders are not Indian citizensbut foreign nationals holding passports of their respective countries. An OCI card serves only as a lifelong visa which gives the foreigner the right to enter and stay in India without any time limit as specified by the government under section 7B of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Section 7D empowers the government to cancel the OCI registration.

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