Registered voters in Assam not included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will not be marked "doubtful" and can keep voting in elections until a Foreigners' tribunal takes a decision on their case, the Election Commission has decided.
An Election Commission official has confirmed that registered voters left out of the revised citizens' list will not be declared "doubtful" and can vote until they are deemed foreigners.
Doubtful or "D" voters are a category in Assam whose citizenship is uncertain or under dispute. The category had been introduced by the Election Commission in 1997, while revising the voters' list in the northeastern state.
The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the process of updating the citizen's register, had decided to keep 1.2 lakh "doubtful voters" on hold until their cases were decided by the tribunals.
The Election Commission faced the question of whether those left out of the list should be marked "doubtful" and stopped from voting even if they were voters till now.
But thousands not in the NRC can now vote with the top election body's decision.
The move is significant as members of the ruling BJP as well as the Congress believe that the NRC, published on August 30, is faulty and has left several genuine citizens out. The NRC listed 3.11 crore people and had left out 19 lakh. Some Assam BJP leaders, including minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, alleged a "conspiracy" to leave out Hindus and benefit Muslims.
The union home ministry had clarified that the absence of names in the NRC does not amount to them being declared foreigners; they have a window to prove their citizenship before tribunals.
The Supreme Court-monitored citizen's list exercise was aimed at determining who was born in Assam and who came from Bangladesh or other neighboring regions. Those who can prove they were residents of Assam up to midnight on March 24, 1971 -- a day before Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan - are considered citizens by the NRC. Many families fled across the border into India to live in Assam at the time.