Some state governments, categoric in their opposition to National Register of Citizens (NRC), are unable to decide on National Population Register (NPR) for they worry if such a decision would be legally tenable. Whether they can say No to NPR or can they refuse to provide staff for NPR exercise?
The answer to both is a resounding Yes. Answer to both lies in section 14A of the Citizenship Act (as amended in 2003 to enable NRIC).
First, as Faizan Mustafa and other legal experts have explained, NPR is nowhere mentioned in the act.
Second, it does not entrust the state government to appoint any officers & staff for this exercise.
This is unlike what is mentioned in say a Census Act, where the act provides for the state government to appoint officers and staff to do the census exercise under section 4 (2).
And unlike what is mentioned under section 159 of representation of the People’s Act wherein the power to requisition staff is explicitly mentioned.
And unlike what is mentioned in say section 16, chapter III of Disaster Management Act, 2005.
From the wording of the 14A of the Citizenship Act, it is clear that the act intended the NRIC exercise to be done by the central government and not by the state government.
Now the question comes, how did state governments get involved in this.
The Citizenship Rules, 2003 that went beyond its brief is the answer.
While the act nowhere mentions the roles and responsibilities of state government, the rules, an executive dictat, go the full yard and beyond to even challenge the federal nature of the constitution. Every official of central, state and local government to assist Registrar General it seems.
State governments which refuse to do NPR, or refuse to share resources for NPR exercise would only be following the act, the law of the land.
The only thing against the law here is the rules, which I am sure is a handiwork of an overzealous IAS officer, dreaming himself to be a Chief Election Commission.
The above piece is originally published in Kannan Gopinathan’s official twitter account.