LEAVING OVER 45 lakh residents in the lurch, the Assam government on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that it would not appeal against the Gauhati High Court’s decision to reject their documents for inclusion in the National Register for Citizens (NRC). On February 28, the high court had held that residency certificates issued by panchayats would no longer be considered as valid documents for NRC. The counsel for Assam told a bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi Wednesday that they had decided not to challenge the order.
The NRC office has received over 45 lakh such “link documents”, mostly from married women to enable them to establish their “link” with their parents. The high court noted that issuance of these certificates ran the risk of allowing foreign nationals to procure them, and therefore, new certificates should be issued for the purpose.
On Wednesday, the NRC coordinator raised the issue before the bench, also comprising Justice Rohinton F Nariman, and sought to know the way forward. The bench replied that it would not let anything stall the progress of preparing the NRC, and the coordinator could go ahead with his job without bothering about what to do with these 45 lakh-odd cases.
“We cannot let you re-open everything now. If you start re-examining these 45 lakh certificates, it is anybody’s guess how long this is going to take. We will not let anything come in the way.These certificates are contrary to the 2003 Citizenship Rules too. We may ask you to publish the draft NRC minus these 45 lakh,” said the court.
It asked the state government how it proposed to deal with the high court order and whether it would file an appeal. The counsel responded that the state government would not challenge the order. At this, Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, representing the central government, intervened. “We have scheduled a meeting which is likely to be presided over by the Union Home Minister. Let this issue be discussed by all the stakeholders. Give us an opportunity to come back on this,” he told the bench.
The bench accepted his submission and said it would give him time to respond on the issue of residency certificates as well as related issues raised by the NRC coordinator. While adjourning the matter, the court observed that it would take a decision on the issue of residency certificates “very quickly”, but, in the meantime, there could not be any impediment in the process of preparing the NRC. The bench made it clear that it wanted the draft NRC ready as soon as possible, and it was not going to allow time till March 2018, as sought by the NRC coordinator.
The court also directed the ASG to share the border fencing plan with all the parties, dismissing his argument that it may endanger national security.