NEW DELHI, Dec 5 - The Supreme Court today set aside Gauhati High Court�s order, allowing gaon panchayat certificates to be used to establish linkage after the verification process.
A Bench of Supreme Court headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Rohinton F Nariman overturned the order of Gauhati High Court that had invalidated these certificates for claiming citizenship. The order will provide relief to 47.09 lakh applicants who are using the document to establish linkage with fathers and husbands.
The State Coordinator for NRC, Prateek Hajela had on October 8 submitted a report stating that 17.40 lakh of the total 47.09 lakh applicants have been identified as original inhabitants of Assam. While the remaining 26.13 lakh applications are yet to be identified.
The 29.69 lakh included 1.29 lakh unmarried women, 26.13 lakh married women and 2.32 lakh male, his report said.
�We set aside the order of the high court insofar as the invalidity of the certificate issued by the GP secretary is concerned and allow the present appeals,� the Bench said in its order.
�We make it clear that the certificate issued by the GP secretary will, however, be acted upon only to establish linkage between the holder of such certificate and the persons from whom legacy is being claimed. The certificate will put to such limited use only if the contents of the certificate are found to be established on due and proper enquiry and verification,� the Bench said.
The Gauhati High Court ruled that a residency certificate issued by the gaon panchayat had �no statutory sanctity� to make a claim in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam and could �at best be a private document.�
The Supreme Court order said that it appears that the list of illustrative documents, including the GP secretary certificate, were agreed to by all stakeholders in the process of NRC update and had been approved by the Union government as well as the State government after which orders were issued to district-level officers.
The certificate issued by the GP secretary merely acknowledges the shifting of residence of married women from one village to another. The certificate by itself and by no means establishes claim of citizenship of the holder of the certificate. It has been made clear in several reports of the State Coordinator, NRC Assam that a claim accompanied by such a certificate, without details of the legacy person, is to be discarded.
�The certificate issued by the GP secretary by no means is proof of citizenship. Such proof will come only if the link between the claimant and the legacy person, who is to be a citizen, is established. The certificate has to be verified in two stages. The first is the authenticity of the certificate itself and the second is the authenticity of the content,� the order said.
The Supreme Court said that the contentions advanced on behalf of the State that the document is a �private document� would be legally fragile.
In the original inhabitant case, the Supreme Court said the exercise of NRC upgrade is not intended to be one of identification and determination of who are originally
inhabitants of Assam. The sole test for inclusion in the NRC is citizenship under the Constitution of India and under the Citizenship Act, including Section 6A, the Bench said.
Citizens, who are original inhabitants of Assam and those who are not, are at par for inclusion in the NRC. �In view of the above, we do not find any reason to issue any direction or clarification as to the meaning of the term �Originally Inhabitant of the State of Assam� as sought for in the present writ petitions and by the interlocutory applicants, which are accordingly disposed of in terms of our directions and observation,� the Bench said.
The Supreme Court remarked that the prayers made in the writ petitions are founded on the apprehension that by the process of verification of the claims to be originally inhabitants of the State of Assam, a superior class of citizens is being created. The question who is originally inhabitant of Assam, according to the applicants and the writ petitioners, may also have impact on the entitlement of such persons in matters of opportunities for education, employment vis-a-vis the second category of citizens, who are not originally inhabitants of Assam.
�All such apprehensions are wholly unfounded,� the Bench said.