A petition has been filed by three residents of Bihar in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the gazette notification regarding conduct of National Population Register (NPR) between April and September 2020. The Supreme Court Bench led by CJI S.A. Bobde has accordingly, issued formal notice to the Central Government, in this petition filed by one Udagar Ram and two others.
At a recently concluded meeting with state representatives, many states had raised objections on the question asking for parents’ place of birth. After this meeting, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), made a statement that questions in NPR are voluntary.
The petition contends that updation of NPR amounts to gross violation of privacy of citizens. Even the nature of the exercise is manifestly arbitrary and such a database would “erode basic freedoms that the people in India currently enjoy. The petition also points out that “no grounds of doubtfulness” have been specified neither is there a guarantee of protection and security of the data that is being collected through the NPR.
The petition also states that the provisions in the Citizenship Act, 1955, and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 regarding National Population Register as well the MHA notification dated July 31, 2019 are all violative of the fundamental rights as enumerated in the Indian Constitution.
There is no probable cause for the State to inquire into the personal details of a private citizen unless an investigation has revealed that the entire population has acted in an unlawful manner, the petition said.
It also states that through NPR, the State seeks to invade the privacy of people without first establishing that people are acting in an unlawful manner. The petition termed NPR to be unlawful and stated that NPR is being piggy-backed on the exercise of the first phase of Census 2021, also known as the Houselisting phase.
“Needless to say that the Census is carried out under a wholly different authority, i.e. the Census Commissioner under the aegis of the Census Act, 1948. The Census Act, 1948, also provides that no information collected during the census would be used in civil or criminal proceedings nor would be disclosed, the information collected under the NPR exercise is not guaranteed the same protection,” the petition said.
Although NPR questions are not mandatory, the NPR instruction manual does not ask its enumerators to specify this fact to the people who will be asked these questions. Also, information being collected under NPR is not guaranteed any protection from misuse under the Citizenship Rules, 2003.
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