The Supreme Court has allowed certificates issued by Gram panchayat(GP)or executive magistrate to be used as identity document for claiming citizenship if issued after conducting proper enquiries.
The apex court set aside the order of Gauhati High Court by which it had invalidated these certificates for claiming citizenship.
The move is likely to bring relief to lakhs of women in the state who use the document to establish linkage with fathers and husbands.
The GP certificate is used to validate residence of a person. It used to open bank accounts, apply for mobile numbers and so forth.
The lead petition was filed by Monowara Bewa (40), a resident of Dhubri district in Assam. She had been marked as a doubtful or ‘D-voter’ by the local election authority. Her family claims that she had switched addresses and not de-registered from her prior constituency.
A foreigner tribunal had discarded most of her documents as unable to prove that she was a citizen. The GP certificate was an important document to establish her citizenship and her linkage with her parental family since becoming a widow.
The foreigner tribunal, and later the Gauhati High Court, did not accept the GP certificate and referred to it as a “private document”. The Supreme Court has now restored the applicability of the document in establishing linkage to other documents that prove citizenship.
However, Monowara’s counsel said that her appeal against her being detected as a ‘foreigner’ by the foreigner tribunal has not yet been decided.
According to the provisions of a clause of Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, "the names of persons who are originally inhabitants of the state of Assam and their children and descendants, who are citizens of India, shall be included in the consolidated list if the citizenship of such persons is ascertained beyond reasonable doubt and to the satisfaction of the registering authority".
The Supreme Court on Nov 20 had pulled up the Assam government for making a "sweeping statement" that 15 per cent of the state population were tribals who have not participated in modernisation and were away from the mainstream.
The top court said it was a "dangerous statement" on the state's behalf and was neither good for the health of the people, nor the government as 15 per cent population was a huge chunk.
The court's observation came after Assam's counsel referred to this issue and said the government was trying to make them come forward in the ongoing process of updation and publication of draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.
"This is not the way to do it. From where you are making these statements. These kind of sweeping statements are not good for the health of the people and health of the state. 15 per cent is a huge chunk. If you say 15 per cent population is not in the mainstream, we will ask what have you done in this regard as a state," the bench said.
The NRC of 1951 is being updated for Assam in accordance with the tripartite agreement between the state and central governments and the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was arrived at in 2005 to implement the 1985 Assam Accord.
The apex court was earlier told that as on November 22, a total of 3.29 crore claims have been made for inclusion in the NRC, which is being prepared to identify illegal migrants.
This copy will be updated once the Supreme Court order is available.
(With inputs from PTI and Ushinor Majumdar)
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