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In CAA Hearing, Spotlight on NPR Fears as SC Told 40 Lakh Marked ‘Doubtful’ in UP

Women protest against the NPR exercise and the proposed NRC. (PTI photo)

Women protest against the NPR exercise and the proposed NRC. (PTI photo)

Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the Supreme Court that two weeks ago, people were also marked with tick and cross in UP.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it could consider taking up matters related to the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh separately after being told that the state has started identifying refugees and migrants under the contentious law without the rules being framed.

Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde that the CAA process has already started in UP as he along with other petitioners pressed the court to stay or defer its implementation along with that of the National Population Register (NPR) till a judgment is passed.

The Uttar Pradesh government has, according to sources, initiated the process of collecting information about refugees and migrants in a prescribed format from district authorities across the state.

Shrikant Sharma, Uttar Pradesh minister and government spokesperson, had also said that 32,000 non-Muslims who could gain citizenship have already been identified, but did not specify what criteria was followed for this.

Singhvi told the apex court that two weeks ago, people were also marked with tick and cross in UP. “Doubtful, maybe, to be verified. This process has not happened in 70 years, why not wait two more months. This is happening even without the Rules being made," he said.

He further added that without the rules, as many as 40 lakh people have been marked “doubtful” in the state, Live Law reported. This, he claimed, has happened in 19 districts of UP. “Their right to vote will be lost. Kindly stay the process. That's our prayer. This will prevent a lot of chaos and insecurity,” he said.

His claim came after senior advocate Kapil Sibal sought an order to delay the NPR process, which critics say is the first step towards a pan-India National Register of Citizens, for at least three months, pointing out that the NPR is scheduled to begin in April.

Senior advocate KV Vishwanathan also submitted that if any person is marked as a 'doubtful citizen' during the NPR process, it will lead to problems not just for Muslims, but also Hindus.

The NPR, for which the government had earmarked nearly Rs 4,000 crore last month, aims to create a database of all “usual residents” of the country.

But the bigger fear is that the Citizenship rules of 2003 on which it’s based, also allows for the identification of "illegal migrants" and "doubtful citizens". The same rules also call for the creation of a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).

The government has assured that the NPR will not be the first step towards an NRC. On Monday, union minister Ram Vilas Paswan also said the government may remove the questions on date and place of birth of a respondent’s parents from NPR as it has led to widespread panic that the exercise might be a precursor to NRC.

The Supreme Court, however, refused to grant any relief in relation to either the CAA or the NPR and said no ex-parte order can be passed as the Centre had no notice on all petitions.

But the bench agreed to consider the petitions from Assam and Tripura separately, considering the special grounds urged in those cases. When the petitioners urged that there were also special grounds in relation to Uttar Pradesh, CJI Bobde observed that some of the matters might be taken up separately if they were placed differently.

The SC has given the Centre four weeks to respond to over 140 pleas challenging the validity of the CAA on the grounds that it is discriminatory as it excludes Muslims. The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi communities who came to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014.