The objection form to the draft list published under the NRC updating exercise at the bottom left contains a declaration to be signed by the objector in the following terms:
“I hereby declare that the facts mention above are true to be best of my knowledge and belief. If any information is found to be false I shall be liable for penalty as per law.
Providing any false information would attract penalties under The Citizenship Act, 1955.”
Upamanyu Hazarika, convenor of Prabajan Virodhi Manch said that this particular provision on the form has raised a lot of concern in the public domain that this will be a strong deterrent to filing any objection. The reliance is on section 17 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 which provides that any person who procuring anything to be done or not to be done under that Act knowingly makes any representation which is false in a material particular shall be punishable up to imprisonment of five years and fine of up to Rs 50,000. This is in respect of the Citizenship Act which regulates the right to grant of citizenship through various modes, by birth, by descent, registration, naturalization, overseas citizenship, etc.
Hazarika said that the grant of citizenship by these different modes requires furnishing of information, particulars in prescribed forms in this regard. It is in respect of such particulars that will be furnished towards the grant of citizenship that an offence has been construed in respect of particulars supplied by those seeking citizenship.
Section 14 A inserted by amendment of December 3, 2004 deals with issuance of national identity cards after registering every citizen of India. There is no reference in the Citizenship Act to any objection to be filed regarding grant of citizenship. The NRC updating exercise is carried out under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Cards) Rules 2003.
These rules set out the manner of preparation of National Register of Citizens and rule 4 A make special provisions with respect to Assam. Rule 9 provides for the Registrar General of Citizen Register specifying the procedure for preparation of NRC and disposal of claims and objections.
Rule 17 of the rules are relevant as it provides that any violation of rules 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 1000. The rules therefore do not even contemplate any penalty, leave alone any offence in respect of Rule 9 dealing with claims and objections. The Citizenship rules of 2003 under which NRC updating is carried do not create or define an offence in respect of Rule 9 dealing with claims and objections, but section 17 of the Citizenship Act is brought in which applies in terms of the Act only to those who have applied for grant of citizenship.
Even there is a qualification, someone who “knowingly” makes any representation which is false in a material particular. Knowledge of such representation being false is a requirement to be proved.
In the present case, the form merely says false representation, which itself is misleading of the provisions of the Citizenship Act, even though Section 17 does not appear to be applicable.
The whole exercise of inviting objections seems to be rendered a nullity as it will be a strong deterrent to any person to file any objection and in fact the provision defining the offence at Section 17 of the Citizenship Act does not appear to be applicable and impliedly excluded by the rules, which provide for a fine of Rs 1000 as the maximum penalty. In the case of claims and objections in terms of rule 9, there is no penalty prescribed in respect of the falsity of any information in this process.
Hazarika said that the requisite authorities will be well advised to seek legal counsel / opinion in this regard as to the correctness and validity of the insertion of such a warning to the objector.