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Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] The Misadventure of a new citizenship regime

In Parliament, an exercise in counting was proposed for a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
By IASToppers
November 29, 2019

Contents

  • Context
  • Why the idea of applying NRC to whole India is worrisome?
  • Uncertainties in implementation of Nationwide NRC
  • Debate on citizenship
  • IT’s Input
  • Conclusion

The Misadventure of a new citizenship regime

For IASToppers’ Editorial Simplified Archive, click here 

Context

Recently, Union Home Minister told Parliament that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be implemented nationwide.

Union Home Minister

India has been on continuous journey to count people and this process doesn’t seem to end. Recently. the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner has completed a 10-year project of data collection at the household level, for the Census of 2021 and at the same time, the individual level data collection for the National Population Register is also to be uploaded next summer.

Why the idea of applying NRC to whole India is worrisome?

No effective mechanism for identifying foreigners

  • Under the Foreigners’ Act, 1946, the onus of proving whether a person is a foreigner or not, lies on that person. Hence, the burden of proof rests on the individual charged with being a foreigner. 
  • Moreover, Citizenship Act provides no independent mechanism for identifying foreigners. Therefore, the NRC places an entire population under suspicious.

High cost

NRC

  • The resources needed to conduct such an NRC is huge. The Assam NRC cost INR 1,600 crore with 50,000 officials deployed. A nationwide NRC would require an outlay of ₹4.26 lakh crore with deployment of 1.33 crore government officials. (In 2011-12, the total number of government employees in India was 2.9 crore).
  • However, if this exercise is to be managed exclusively by the Central government, the additional personnel needed would make this a truly novel employment generation programme.

Potential Discrimination against Muslims

  • Like the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which discriminates against Muslims, there are fears that a nationwide NRC unethically target Muslims and deprive them from citizenship.
  • The regular assertion, in Parliament, that the NRC and the CAB are unrelated are not going to ease the anxieties of Muslim citizens given the larger ecosystem for minorities in India.
  • The violence against minorities, the triple talaq legislation and the reading down of Article 370, shows that minors are viewed as second class citizens by the state.

 

Uncertainties in implementation of Nationwide NRC

  1. The cut-off date: The cut-off date for granting citizenship is not yet fixed. July 1948 cannot be a reasonable cut-off date in light of constitutional provisions, post-Partition jurisprudence, and the enactment of the Citizenship Act in 1955.
  2. The enrolment nature: Whether the enrolment in the NRC would be compulsory or voluntary enrolment and what might the consequences of not seeking registration be.
  3. Federal imperative: There will be federal challenges of seeking the consent of State governments. Many states in northeast India are erupting in protest.

Debate on citizenship

  • After a prolonged debate, the Constituent Assembly settled on the principle of jus soli or birth-based citizenship as opposed to the “racial citizenship” based on the principle of jus sanguinis.
  • A shift from soil to blood as the basis of citizenship began to occur from 1985 onwards. But in 2004, an exception to birth-based citizenship was created for individuals born in India but having one parent who was an illegal migrant (impliedly Bangladeshi Muslim) at the time of their birth.
  • The CAB and the NRC will only consolidate this shift to a jus sanguinis citizenship regime.
  • Constitutionally, India is a political community whose citizens accept the idea of the nation as a civic entity, transcending ethnic differences.
  • The NRC-CAB combination signals a transformative shift from a civic-national conception to an ethno-national conception of India and as a political community in which identity determines gradations of citizenship.

IT’s Input

Jus Sanguinis

  • Jas Sanguinis It is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined by the nationality of one or both parents.
  • Children at birth may automatically be citizens of a particular state if either or both of their parents have citizenship of that state or national identities of ethnic, cultural, or other origins.
  • Citizenship can also apply to children whose parents belong to a diaspora and were not themselves citizens of the state conferring citizenship.
  • Almost all states in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania grant citizenship at birth based upon the principle of jus sanguinis.
  • This principle is in contrast with the principle of ‘Jus Soli’.

Jus Soli

Jus-Soli

  • Just soli (right of soil), commonly referred to as birthright citizenship in the US.
  • According to this principle, the right of anyone born in the territory of the state to nationality or citizenship.
  • Jus soliin many cases helps prevent statelessness.
  • Jus soli is the predominant rule in the Americas, but it is rare elsewhere.

Conclusion

The whole process of implementing nationwide NRC will have adverse outcomes for the delicate plural social fabric of India, for the civilizational qualities of humaneness and hospitality that have marked our history and, above all, for the equality of citizenship that India’s Constitution guarantees which is based on birth and without regard to creed.

 

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