National Population Register: Legal consequences on refusal to answer (or provide wrong information)

All census questions must be answered. However NPR questions by all citizens who are willing to be satyagrahis must not be answered in an act of civil disobedience. If millions across the country refuse to answer the NPR questions and do not pay the fine and are willing to go to prison, the government will be in a quandary as the total present places in prisons across the country is 3 lakhs only.

Refusal to answer NPR questions must be done politely and firmly. Please request help of any knowledgeable person one in your neighborhood if you are not able to distinguish between Census and NPR questions.

Consequence 1: Person refusing to provide information will not be included in the National Register of Indian Citizens

Rule 2 (l) of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity cards), Rules, 2003 defines the “Population Register”. This is distinct from “Local Register of Indian Citizens”, which is defined by Rule 2 (g). Rule 3(2) of the above Rules states that the National Register of Indian Citizens is made of sub-parts from the State Register all the way to the Local Register. Rule 3(5) read with 4(3) of the above Rules, state that Local Register of Indian citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the Population Register. Therefore, refusal to provide information for the Population Register means non-inclusion in the Local Register and therefore the National Register of Indian Citizens (unless the person were to later choose to approach the authority on the Local Register directly with information) Rule 4 (3) of the Citizenship Rules provide that

Note: The PIB press release of 24.12.2019 states that:
Census will be conducted in two phases: (i) House listing and Housing Census – April to September, 2020, and (ii) Population Enumeration – 9th February to 28th February, 2021.
The National Population Register (NPR) will also be updated along with House listing and Housing Census

Consequence 2: Penalties may be imposed under the Citizenship Rules, 2003

Rule 17 of the above Rules, states that: “Any violation of provisions of Rules, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 14 shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.”
Rule 7(1): “It shall be compulsory for every citizen of India to assist the officials responsible for preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens under Rule 4 and get himself registered in the Local Register of Indian Citizens during the period of initialization.”
Rule 7(2): “It shall be the responsibility of the head of every family, during the period specified for preparation of the Population Register, to give the correct details of name and number of members and other particulars, as specified in sub-rule (3) of Rule 3, of the family of which he is the head.”
Rule 8: “The District Registrar, Sub-district or Taluk Registrar or the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration may, by order, require any person to furnish any information within his knowledge in connection with the determination of Citizenship status of any person and the person required to furnish information shall be bound to comply with such requisition.”
Note: Section.17 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 provides for upto 5 years imprisonment and fine for false representations of material particulars under the Act

Consequence No. 3: Penalties under the Census Act, 1948

As per the PIB press release of 24.12.2019, enumerators will be doing the work of NPR along with the Census. Therefore, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to participate in one while refusing to participate in the other. Conduct of census is governed by the Census Act, 1948 and the Census Rules, 1990. Section 6 and 11 of the Act are important and contain penalties.
Section 8 of the Census Act provides that a census officer may ask all such questions as he may be directed to ask by instructions issued in this behalf by the Central Government and published in the Official Gazette. Every person of whom any such question is asked shall be legally bound to answer such question to the best of his knowledge or belief.
Section 6 (1) (f), Census Act provides that the District Magistrate, or an authority so appointed by the State Government, may by a written order direct that every occupant of immovable property wherein at the time of the taking of the census persons are living, shall perform such of the duties of a census-officer in relation to the persons who at the time of the taking of the census are under his command or charge, or are inmates of his house, or are present on or in such immovable property or are employed under him as may be specified in the order.
Section 6 (2) All the provisions of this Act relating to census-officers shall apply, so far as may be, to all persons while performing such duties under this section, and any person refusing or neglecting to perform any duty which under this section he is directed to perform shall be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 187 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 11 defines various offences under the Act and provides penalties to the same, which may extend to three years. When read with section 6 (f), almost all the sub-clauses may be applicable, in one manner or the other, to individuals who refuse to cooperate.

11. Penalties.—(1) (a) any census-officer or any person lawfully required to give assistance towards the taking of census who refuses to perform any duty imposed upon him by this Act or any rule made thereunder, or any person who hinders or obstructs another person in performing any such duty, or

(aa) any census-officer or any person lawfully required to give assistance towards the taking of a census who neglects to use reasonable diligence in performing any duty imposed upon him or in obeying any order issued to him in accordance with this Act or any rule made thereunder, or any person who hinders or obstructs another person in performing any such duty or obeying any such order, or

(b) any census-officer who intentionally puts any offensive or improper question or knowingly makes any false return or, without the previous sanction of the Central Government or the State Government, discloses any information which he has received by means of, or for the purposes of, a census return, or

….(d) any person who intentionally gives a false answer to, or refuses to answer to the best of his knowledge or belief, any question asked of him by a census-officer which he is legally bound by Section 8 to answer, or

(e) any person occupying any house, enclosure, vessel or other place who refuses to allow a census-officer such reasonable access thereto as he is required by Section 9 to allow, or

(f) any person who removes, obliterates, alters, or damages any letters, marks or numbers which have been painted or affixed for the purposes of the census, or

(g) any person who, having been paid required under Section 10 to fill up a schedule, knowingly and without sufficient cause fails to comply with the provisions of that section, or makes any false return thereunder, or

… shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees and in case of a conviction under part (a), (b) or (c) shall also be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years.

(2) Whenever abets any offence under sub-section (1) shall be punishable with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Rule 8 (ii) of the Census Rule provides that the State Governments and the Union territory Administrations shall publish a notification directing the public to cooperate in furnishing accurate and unambigous information in respect of the questions that may be put to them through census alongwith an extract of penalties prescribed under section 11 of the Act.

Consequence 3: Offences under IPC in relation to information to Public Servants when being “legally bound” to do so

Note: Section 5 of the Census Act provides that the Census Commissioner, all Directors of Census Operations and all census-officers shall be deemed to be public servants within the meaning of Indian Penal Code. However, in the context of IPC, most old judgments say that it is applicable only to when it is a ‘public servant’ as defined by section21. Need more time to research this

S.176. Omission to give notice or information to public servant by person legally bound to give it.—: “Whoever, being legally bound to give any notice or to furnish information on any subject to any public servant, as such, intentionally omits to give such notice or to furnish such information in the manner and at the time required by law, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.”
Section 179: “Whoever, being legally bound to state the truth on any subject to any public servant, refuses to answer any question demanded of him touching that subject by such public servant in the exercise of the legal powers of such public servant, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
Section 186. Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions.—Whoever voluntarily obstructs any public servant in the discharge of his public functions, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
Section 187. Omission to assist public servant when bound by law to give assistance.—: “Whoever, being bound by law to render or furnish assistance to any public servant in the execution of his public duty, intentionally omits to give such assistance, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both. ”

Courtesy: Ravi Nair, Human Rights Researcher

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