NRC: What is ‘Inner Line Permit’ ?

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The Apex Court on 3rd June 2020 asked the Central Government to answer the presidential order that was signed by the President of India related to the amendment of the Inner Line Permit system under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations (BEFR), 1873. As per a news article published by Laws on 3rd June 2020, the Inner Line Permit is a document or a system that operates in the North-Eastern territory of India, as per this system the outsiders have to take permission to enter the states protecting the natives of the state from losing their jobs, culture, land, etc.

Section 2 of BEFR, 1873 states that the system of ILP demands a permit from the outsiders and even from the people of other states to visit the states that follow the system of ILP. At present, this system is followed in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Manipur.

A news article published on Economic Times on 11 December 2019 stated that the ILP system was extended to the territory of Manipur with the sign of President Kovind to give effect to the order. This order was challenged by the All Tai Ahom Students Union and Asom jatiyabadi Yuba Chatra Parishada and they contended that the order passed by the President was unconstitutional and they further demanded that the system of ILP shall be continued in Assam so that the state can be protected from the Citizenship Amendment Act. The main contention of the petitioners was that the districts of Assam such as Kamrup, Darrang, etc. were removed and they formed a huge part of the territory of Assam. The petitioners also contended that the order so passed by the President was obsolete as according to Article 372(3) such order can be passed only till 1953.

The 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court in this case refused to grant the ex-parte stay as demanded by the petitioners. The Court has served a notice to the Central government and the matter is now to be heard after two weeks.

What is ‘Inner Line Permit’

The term originates from the eastern frontier of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFR), 1873. The Inner Line, an idea drawn up by colonial rulers, divided the tribal-populated hill areas of the Northeast from the plains. This was done to protect the indigenous tribal communities of these states from exploitation. Indian citizens from other areas need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter and stay in those areas for any period. The Inner Line protects Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, and recently Manipur was added.  

Purpose and Objective

An article published by Outlook India states that ILP is an official travel document that is required by the non-natives of the four North-Eastern states that are Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh when they visit these four states.

Inner Limit Permit is issued by the particular state that has a concern with the matters related to the same. The main aim of this system was to protect the Crown’s interest in certain states by preventing Indians to trade in these particular areas. Another purpose of this permit was to prevent tribal communities residing in the area from exploitation.

The main purpose of this permit is now basically to help natives of these states to preserve their land, job, and culture from the outsiders. Currently, not only outsiders but non-natives are also required to show their permit.

The main objective of ILP takes us back to history. This ILP is an extension of BEFR, 1873 in which, Britishers established rules and regulations. They restricted entry in certain areas. All the non-natives are obligated to show their permit when they visit these states and the permit shows the purpose of their visit. The ILP restricts the refugees to settle in the states under this system.

Legal provisions

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill aims to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees to obtain Indian citizenship from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. If it is introduced with clauses to exempt States under the ILP system from its ambition, it means that CAB beneficiaries will become Indian citizens but will not be able to settle in those three states. The same restriction applies to existing Indian citizens.

Three areas of Assam, however, already come under the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule, which protects tribal parts. The government made it clear that the States will be exempted from CAA under the ILP. According to an article published by IAS Express, in 1985, an agreement was signed between the Centre and the protesters related to the agitations in 1970 which, led to an increase in the number of undocumented immigrants.

If the CAA passes without the restrictions of ILP then the recipients under this Act can settle anywhere in the nation which will be a threat to the North-Eastern states. Inner Limit Permit is demanded by the natives of the states because they have a fear of losing their identity and certain other interests.

Critical analysis

Inner Limit Permit is an official document and as discussed above it carries vital importance for the people living in the North-Eastern territory of India. If the CAA is passed, then the main contention of the natives living in the north-eastern territory of India is that they would be on the verge of losing their jobs, identity, and their culture. The contention of the petitioners stands true in the sense that ILP is a protection system for the natives in these states. One important point to note here that was also bought by the petitioners was that the districts such as Kamrup, Darrang, Lakhimpur, etc. that constitute an important part of Assam were removed from the ambit of BEFR before the CAB was introduced in the Parliament.

According to the author, the order that has been passed by the President regarding the amendment is unconstitutional. It is mentioned in Article 372(3) that the power to make any kind of adaptation or modification expires after three years from the commencement of the Indian constitution thus, making this order invalid as it is outside the powers of the President.


The government is not in favour of introducing the concept of Inner Line Permit in the state of Assam as Schedule Six of the constitution of India already protects the tribal areas in the state. The main purpose of ILP is to protect the land, tradition, and culture from the exploitation. The government contends that the purpose of ILP has already been fulfilled by the constitution of India. Hence, there lies no need to introduce ILP in the state of Assam.

The people of the state, whereas, filed a petition in the court contending that the state shares the longest borders with Bangladesh and has been against the influx of illegal migrants coming from Bangladesh. Therefore, the state is highly subjected to the exploitation by the non-natives and the migrants from Bangladesh. Hence, the ILP must be granted to this state to protect it from any abuse or exploitation.

The Supreme Court of India, on 3rd June 2020, rejected the plea to put a stay on the orders of the President. Thus, the Supreme Court ruled against the petitioners.     

Author: Shivani Agarwal from Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.