The Supreme Court on Thursday said the July 31, 2019 deadline to finalise the National Register of Citizens for Assam cannot be extended and asked the state government, the NRC co-ordinator and the Election Commission to ensure that the upcoming general elections do not slow down the process.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, Secretary of the Election Commission and the Assam chief secretary to conduct a meeting within a week to ensure that the NRC finalisation process and the upcoming parliamentary elections go 'hand-in-hand' and there is no dearth of government officials for either process.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Assam Government, told the bench, also comprising Justice R F Nariman, that such a meeting would be held and the court would be apprised of the deliberations.
The draft National Register of Citizens for Assam was published on July 30, 2018 in which the names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included. The names of 40,70,707 people did not figure in the list. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold.
Hajela said that out of about 40 lakh persons, who were left out of draft NRC, 36.2 lakh persons have filed claims with the authorities for inclusion of their names in the final NRC.
He also said that around 2 lakh objections have been received against those whose names have been included in the draft NRC.
Referring to upcoming general elections, Hajela said that there could be difficulties in finalising the NRC by July 31 as government officials would be required by the Election Commission also for the poll duty.
"The publication of final NRC for Assam should in no circumstance stretch beyond July 31. In elections many employees will be required. The NRC process must continue. You have to work it out," the bench said.
"We do not want this to extend beyond July 31," it said, adding that everybody has to be reasonable and 'one cannot suffer at the expense of other'.
The bench said initially that it may ask the secretary of the poll panel, Hajela and the state chief secretary to conduct a meeting to find a solution to ensure that there was adequate work force for both, the NRC and the poll process.
The bench asked Hajela to take 'just, proper and appropriate' steps in dealing with claims and objections of people with regard to inclusion or exclusion in final NRC.
The bench has now posted the matter for further hearing on February 5 when it was apprised of the outcome of the meeting.
Earlier, the apex court had extended till December 31, 2018 the deadline for filing claims and objections for inclusion of names in the NRC in Assam by those who have been left out in the draft NRC.
It had also made clear that the deadline for verifying the claims for inclusion in the NRC would be now February 15, 2019 instead of February 1.
The apex court had allowed the use of five more documents by claimants for the draft Assam NRC, saying the premise 'better to exclude genuine person than to include a wrongful person' can't be accepted.
It had over-ruled the objections of Hajela that the documents to be relied upon to stake claim such as refugee registration certificate and ration card can be forged.
The claimants for draft Assam NRC can now stake claim with the help of total 15 documents provided in List-A of the claim form.
The five new documents allowed by the bench to prove the legacy for the claimants include extract of names in NRC, 1951; extract/certified copy of Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971 and Citizenship Certificate and refugee certificate issued by competent authority (up to March 24, 1971 midnight).
The other two legacy documents include Certified copies of pre-1971 Electoral Roll, particularly, those issued from Tripura and the ration card.
The court had also accepted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) prepared by Centre and had fixed the time line for various stage in publication of draft final NRC.
The apex court had on September 5 had allowed use any one of the 10 of a total 15 documents provided in List-A of the claim form to be used by the claimants for proving legacy.
The ten legacy documents which were made admissible include land documents like registered sale deed, permanent residential certificate issued from outside the State, passport and LIC insurance policy of the relevant period.
The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 in accordance with the top court's direction. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then.
Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state to have an NRC, first prepared in 1951.