MHA 'fact-checks' report suggesting Aadhaar or passport required for NPR, but confusion over 'voluntary' furnishing of ID prevails

  • The Union Home Ministry on Thursday clarified that the authorities will not ask for any documents during the house-to-house survey for updating the National Population Register and that information provided by individuals would be accepted and recorded.

  • The clarification came in response to a Times of India story that claimed citing sources that those who possess documents like Aadhaar card or passport must furnish them during the process of NPR

  • However, those who do not possess these documents in the first place, won't be asked to provide such details

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday clarified that the authorities will not ask for any documents during the house-to-house survey for updating the National Population Register and that information provided by individuals would be accepted and recorded.

The Ministry of Home Affairs Spokesperson tweeted:

The ministry added: "It is reiterated that NO DOCUMENTS WOULD BE ASKED BY THE ENUMERATORS FOR THE NPR EXERCISE. If the respondents want to present documents for verification, they are free to do so. There would be no compulsion from the side of the enumerators."

The clarification came in response to a Times of India story claiming that those who possess documents like an Aadhaar card or passport must furnish them during the process of NPR, whereas those who do not possess these documents in the first place, won't be asked to provide such details. The article quoted sources to make this claim and further added that this cleared a prevailing impression that a respondent can choose not to provide information relating to the documents even if it is readily available.

However, it is on the latter count that the MHA clarification fails to clear the ambiguity. As also pointed out by several Twitter users in response to the government's tweet, the MHA says nothing about whether an individual has the right to withhold the information despite possessing those documents. And if so, what are the consequences of choosing not to share the documents.

As pointed out by The Times of India, there does exist a rarely invoked law — Rule 17 of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 — that fines a person up to Rs 1,000, and a jail term of and jail up to three year, if they purposely give wrong information or withhold facts. It is not clear whether this law will be applicable/ invoked in case a citizen chooses not to disclose Aadhaar or passport details.

Meanwhile, another article in The Hindu dated 1 January was earlier impugned by the home ministry. The portion quoted as 'incorrect' in the MHA tweet basically quoted 'officials' to state that that citizens will be given prior notice before enumerators visit them for NPR so that all related documents are "readily available for verification".

The Hindu later replugged the MHA response into its original article, along with a clarification from the reporter stating that apart from the 'sources' the report also heavily relied on the NPR Manual issued by Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India which comes under the MHA.

The manual clearly mentions that the existing database will be updated by verifying the details of all respondents through house-to-house enumeration. The ministry did not say whether verification would inadvertently make turning in the listed documents compulsory. Furthermore, if the aforementioned is answered in the affirmative, it will further mystify the use of the word voluntary when the government says that the citizens may voluntarily provide details of Aadhaar and other documents. If only those who do not possess these documents are exempt from providing these details, then it is not entirely a voluntary decision as there was no exercise of free will in making that decision.

The Hindu article further claimed that the ministry has "not denied the point that the National Population Register form will include an additional column seeking details of the place of birth of father and mother," which is an information key to establishing citizenship, should a National Register of Citizen is drawn up nationwide at a later stage.

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Updated Date: Jan 16, 2020 14:11:05 IST