{This article is authored by Devansh Kaushik, student at the National Law School Institute University, Bengaluru. It attempts to examine the the only NRC exercise ever conducted, the Assam NRC along with relevant provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Foreigners Act, 1946.]

Abstract

Recently, there have been multiple political indications of the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC), being implemented nationwide. The presumed objective of such an exercise would be to prepare a list of bona-fide citizens, identify, detain and deport ‘illegal immigrants’. This issue came into public prominence after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 which sparked off nation-wide protests. The government on the other hand repeatedly affirms the legitimacy of such a policy.

This essay aims to examine the only available precedent – the Assam NRC. It seeks to address the dearth of academic literature on the legality of the exercise, by analysing the substantive and procedural laws in question, relevant judicial opinions and their implications, through a constitutional law perspective.

In this essay, relevant provisions and rules of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Foreigners Act, 1946 are summarized, along with the historical context of their origins. The NRC process and the Foreigner’s Tribunals’ proceedings are then critically examined in light of the ‘right to equality’ under Article 14 and ‘right to life and personal liberty’ under Article 21 (as expanded across landmark judicial precedents).

The author concludes by emphasizing on the need to reconcile the existing regime with constitutional rights and suggests relying on the erstwhile IMDT Act as a foundation, in the event a similar exercise is implemented in the future.