The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Centre’s plea for more time to publish the draft National Register for Citizens (NRC) for Assam and said it will be published after midnight on December 31. The purpose of the register is to identify illegal migrants.
“On the expiry of the midnight of December 31, 2017, draft NRC pertaining to the 2 crore claims which have been verified or likely to be verified by the said date and the additional 38 lakh claims… will be published,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman said.
The court slammed the request for more time saying “it is the sheer inaction on the part of the executive in dragging the matter for a period of over three years and the absence of any justifiable cause to hold back even a partial publication that has led the Court to direct publication of the draft NRC on or before 31st December, 2017”.
The Registrar General of Citizen Registration had sought more time and Attorney General K K Venugopal had backed the request.
Justice Nariman asked the AG “whether, if extension prayed for is to be granted, there could be a request for further extension…”. The AG replied that “such a possibility cannot be ruled out…”
This did not go down well with the bench which said, “the exercise of preparation of the upgradation of the draft NRC has been presently going on for the last three years”.
The Attorney General said fixing a date for publication of the draft NRC was an executive function and a court order to this effect “would be an encroachment on the executive domain…”
The bench responded, “the…contention advanced before the Court for the first time overlooks the fact that over a period of three years the Court has been monitoring the matter…”
The Attorney General said part publication of the draft NRC could result in a law and order situation as a large segment of the people would understand their names have been excluded.
The bench rejected this, saying, “We do not see how the aforesaid situation can even remotely arise as we have already indicated in the earlier part of the present order that claims of 47 lakh persons and 29 lakh persons are still pending and would be subject to verification and covered by publication of another draft NRC…”
State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela told the bench that by December 31, scrutiny of about 2 crore claims was likely to be completed.
In the application seeking extension, Registrar General of Citizen Registration said the claims remaining to be verified are of 38 lakh persons where doubts have arisen in respect of documents and particulars, 47 lakh where doubts have arisen over parental linkage, and 29 lakh cases kept in abeyance of married women who submitted Panchayat Secretary Certificate.
When the bench asked Hajela how much time he needed, he said instructions have been issued to complete verification in the 38 lakh cases where doubts have arisen over documents and particulars by January 15. “We accordingly direct Hajela to complete the said process relating to the above 38 lakh claims on or before December 31, 2017, by deployment of additional manpower and resources,” it said, listing the matter for hearing on February 20.