In view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Centre Wednesday told the Supreme court that the Central forces deployed in Assam for National Register of Citizens (NRC) work will not be withdrawn, while the court reiterated that it will not extend the July 31 deadline to publish the final NRC.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman said the NRC work and Lok Sabha polls can go simultaneously in the state, while the Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the Home Secretary had passed directions that the 167 companies deployed in Assam will continue to remain in the state.
“We will not extend the deadline for publication of final NRC on July 31, 2019. Lok Sabha polls and NRC work can go on simultaneously,” the bench said.
The top court said, the manpower and technology required for the publication of final NRC by July 31 will be provided, however, the deadline would not be extended.
“All we are concerned is meeting the deadline of July 31. After the polls, more manpower and technology support will be provided. How you do the work is your concern,” PTI quoted the bench as saying.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on April 10 and said in case any issues are faced in the publication of the NRC, the bench would be willing to meet every month for 10 minutes to assess the situation.
During the hearing, Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted that some officials engaged in the NRC exercise have been assigned poll duty and they are required to join the exercise post-poll in order to meet the deadline.
“Till elections in the state are over, I have to work with current set of people. But after the polls, more people will be needed for the NRC work. I will also be needing IT people for quality checks and data entry to meet the deadline of July 31,” Hajela said.
Last month, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had come down heaving on the Centre and said, “Home Ministry does not want NRC work to go on” and the “entire effort from Home Ministry, it seems to me, is to destroy the process”. The remarks had come after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Assam government, said the NRC exercise might have to be suspended from the last date for withdrawal of nominations till polling day.
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Earlier, the Centre had submitted to the top court that the work on the National Register of Citizens in Assam will have to be suspended for a while in view of redeployment of Central forces for the Lok Sabha elections. The Centre had reasoned that during the polls, the political atmosphere is likely to be highly surcharged and it may not be conducive for hearing NRC cases.
In the last hearing, Venugopal said, 2500 companies of security forces were deployed during the last general elections and there was a need for 2700 companies this time, which would require withdrawal of the 167 companies from Assam, he said.
The top court, which is monitoring the work on updating the NRC, said it cannot extend the July 31 deadline fixed for the publication of final NRC.