Gauhati HC admits petition seeking release of locked NRC biometrics
SILCHAR: The Gauhati high court has admitted a petition by a father-son duo from Assam’s Karimganj district who sought the release of their locked biometrics collected during the drafting process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) so that they can apply for their Aadhaar cards.
Biometrics of 27.43 lakh applicants were collected during the claims and objections phase of the NRC exercise prior to the publishing of the complete draft on August 31, 2019. All five family members of Sanjoy Dey took part in this process and recorded their biometrics.
NRC authority later froze the collected biometric data and as a result, the 27.43 lakh applicants are unable to apply for Aadhaar cards till the final NRC is out. Dey sought a stay on the mandatory requirement of Aadhaar cards, which deprives the family from welfare schemes of the government.
In his petition, Dey wrote, “The Aadhaar card office has made it clear that they won’t issue the card by our names to prevent any duplication of our biometrics since our fingerprints are already locked. It was taken during the hearing of our application for inclusion in the NRC. This is depriving us from so many basic rights and we appeal to the court to intervene.”
The writ petition was filed last month under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Dey sought the court’s intervention to get rejection slips of NRC so that the family members can avail their right to appeal against exclusion from NRC.
According to Dey, they are citizens of India by birth as well as through their ancestors. The five family members submitted applications for inclusion in the NRC on August 27, 2015, but none of them was included in the Complete Draft NRC published on July 30, 2018.
They filed another claim on December 5, 2018 and took part in the hearing. During the hearing, biometric data of the petitioners were obtained by the authorities. But, the names of the petitioner and his family members were not included in the supplementary list published on August 31, 2019.
The high court heard the petition on Wednesday (March 2) and issued another date for proceeding the argument. On March 9, justice Manash Ranjan Pathak will hear the case, and advocate Oliullah Laskar will appear on behalf of Dey.
A similar petition was filed last year by an Assam resident named Anupam Mukherjee seeking the court’s intervention in non-issuance of Aadhaar card to NRC applicants whose biometrics are locked. But justice Manash Ranjan Pathak rejected the plea saying that the final list of NRC is not published yet.
Justice Pathak in his order on September 6, 2021 wrote, “The final list of NRC in the state of Assam has not yet been published. When the said list is published and if the petitioner’s name is not in the same, then he may prefer an appeal before the appropriate forum, as provided in Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.”
The order further read, “Though the petitioner claimed that the Aadhaar card has not yet been issued to him, the concerned authority responsible for issuing the Aadhaar card in the name of petitioner has not been made a party respondent in the present proceeding. Considering the entire aspects of the matter, this writ petition regarding non-inclusion of the name of the petitioner in the National Register of Citizens in the state of Assam, being premature, stands dismissed.”
Reacting on Dey’s writ petition, NRC coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma said that only the Supreme Court can take a decision in this regard.
Talking to HT he said, “We are aware of the fact that a large number of NRC applicants cannot get Aadhaar cards with the existing standard operating procedure. This cannot change till the Registrar General of India (RGI) approves the final NRC. However, the Supreme Court of India has the power to allow them to get Aadhaar cards by changing the rules.”
Sarma in an affidavit in the Gauhati high court in December 2020 claimed that the RGI is silent on the NRC process anomalies.
His affidavit stated, “The RGI is the only statutory authority to take decisions regarding NRC as per Clause 7 of the Citizenship Rules, 2003. NRC is proceeded under the RGI’s authority...he is empowered to take any decision on the correction and rectification of anomalies, if felt necessary. But, the RGI is silent on the final publication of the NRC.”
RGI joint director Jaspal Singh on March 23, 2021 asked the Assam government to complete updating the NRC by March 31, rejecting the state government’s appeal to issue additional funds.
Over 40 lakh people in Assam were excluded from the complete draft of NRC issued on July 30, 2018. In the complete draft published in August 2019, the number of omissions came down to 19,06,657, but the biometrics of 27.43 lakh applicants remained frozen.