Vague Claims and Objections SOPs: Scope for corruption and bribery in Assam?

In a fresh statewide directive, Prateek Hajela, the State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has shared the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Claims and Objections process. The SOPs bring greater clarity to how claims in special cases such as children under 14, people who migrated to Assam from other Indian states as well as destitute people and orphans should be processed. However, some provisions are worded in such a vague manner that the power to decide is left entirely to the whims and fancies of NRC authorities, giving rise to scope for corruption. 


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In a notice issued on December 1 to all District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCRs), Hajela draws attention to several key SOPs issued by the Government of India and approved by the Supreme Court.

Paras 4 (viii) (a) and 4 (viii) (a) (i) deal with people who have migrated to Assam from other Indian states after Mar 24, 1971. According to the SOPs such people, their children and descendants will be considered for inclusion in the NRC if they are able to produce evidence of living in any other part of India outside Assam as on March 24, 1971. However, if they are unable to do so, their cases will be dealt with as per provisions of Rule 4 of the Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards Rules, 2003 and clause 3(3) of its schedule. This is stated as follows:
“Citizens of India who originate from other states in India and who do not have any origin in Specified Territory (Bangladesh) and have moved to state of Assam prior to 24th March, 1971 or after, will be included in the NRC if the citizenship of such persons is ascertained beyond reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the authorities disposing of claims and objections.”

It is this phrase “beyond reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of the authorities disposing of claims and objections” that could be a cause of concern given how vague it is. This empowers NRC officials to take decision without any clear guidelines in black and white as to what is and isn’t acceptable as a valid and authentic document. This is problematic as it can give rise to corruption where bribes may be demanded or offered to get a favourable decision.

However, in good news for destitute people and orphans, no documents will be required and their citizenship will be ascertained based on alternative evidence is available through a committee consisting DRCR, Additional Commissioner incharge of NRC, CRCR and District Social Welfare Officer. The relaxation in provisions for children under 14 released earlier also remain the same i.e oral evidence of parents will be admissible. Similarly the claims made by married women submitting Gaon Panchayat Secretary’s Certificate will also be processed as per provisions of the Supreme Court. Additionally, the venue for holding Claims and Objections hearing will be decided based on the claimants ability to access the location, security and logistics.

The entire notice may be read here



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