The Supreme Court issued a notice on Monday in response to a petition seeking directions to provide Aadhaar cards to people whose biometric details were locked during the updating of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Meanwhile, on or before May 17, the Supreme court requested responses from the Centre, the Assam government, the Registrar General of India (RGI), and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
The petition, filed by Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev, claimed that the non-issuance of Aadhaar cards harmed people’s “ability to obtain basic needs and amenities,” as well as their “rights of the people to be able to have the quality of life as enshrined and protected under Article 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
However, thousands of people whose biometrics were collected prior to the NRC’s release on August 31, 2019, have been unable to obtain their Aadhaar cards and have been denied Aadhaar-related benefits afterwards, despite their names appearing on the NRC.
The petition claimed that 21 lakh people had been “left in the lurch” and asked for help. “It is submitted that while both the Final List and Supplementary List have been released and available in the public domain, the same is yet to be officially notified by the Registrar General of India.”
In addition, it stated, “Due to non-publication of the List by the Registrar General of India, the 21 lakh people who had been included in the Supplementary list are left in a lurch as their biometrics have been frozen and are not being released for the purpose of enrolment of Aadhar number.”
Dev said she filed the petition in December 2021, according to sources. “It was listed only in April. This entire episode is an anomaly. Even the state government wants a solution to this but the Government of India is dragging its feet.”
Dev said, adding that a group of young people had recently met with her in Silchar to discuss the matter. “They are facing a lot of problems, including not getting jobs. Someone had to take a step,” she explained.
However, the state administration, for its part, has communicated with the federal government about the matter, with the Home and Political departments writing to the Union Home Secretary and the RGI thrice (in November 2020 and June 2021).
27 organisations in Assam decided to take the matter to Supreme Court
Meanwhile, the state government met with representatives from 27 organisations in Assam in March and decided to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Aadhaar, the petitioners said, was not proof of citizenship.
Meanwhile, the plea stated, adding that “The Aadhar number is not a proof of citizenship and any person who has been a resident of the country for a period of 182 days in the preceding 6 months is eligible for enrolment under the Aadhar regime.”
The case has been rescheduled for May 17th.
The issue is centred on a Supreme Court-approved Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) from November 2018, which stated that those who were not included in the draught NRC list published on July 31, 2018, were required to submit their biometrics during the ‘claims’ and ‘objections’ hearings in the run-up to the publication of the complete list on August 31, 2019.
The SOP approved by the Supreme Court stated that everyone included in the NRC would be granted the normal Aadhaar number once the final list was published.
However, the NRC, which excluded 19.06 lakh of the 3.3 crore applicants, has been in limbo since its publication. It has not been notified by the RGI, and the state administration is seeking a ‘corrected NRC.’
The biometric data has been frozen due to a lack of understanding regarding the NRC exercise, as well as bureaucratic red tape.