The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to not take any coercive action against the people whose names are excluded from the final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens. The court reiterated that the document was only a draft, PTI reported.

The court also directed the Centre to formulate a “fair” standard operating procedure to deal with claims and objections and submit it by August 16 for its approval. A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and RF Nariman said a local registrar has to give notice to those who have filed claims and objections, and give them reasonable opportunity for hearing.

NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted to the court a status report with details of the publication of the draft document. On being asked about the future course of action, he said that claims and objections could be filed from August 30 to September 28. He added that the draft NRC would be available to people till August 7 so they can check their names.

Representing the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal said the concerned ministry was willing to work out the standard operating procedure’s modalities and that courts should direct no coercive action be taken till equal opportunity is given to all. The bench asked Venugopal to place the SOP before it for approval.

The Centre also proposed to record the biometric details of the 40 lakh people excluded from the list for tracking purposes if they migrate to neighbouring states, reported Hindustan Times. The court did not express any opinion on this submission.

The Assam government on Monday published the final draft of the NCR, which left out more than 40 lakh people. Of the 3.29 crore people who applied, it verified 2.89 crore as legal citizens of India.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh as well as Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday assured people that the draft was not final, and that no action will be taken against anyone not on it. “People whose name is not there will have a fair chance of preferring claim,” Sarma had tweeted. “We’ll stand by every Indian citizen. Our objective is to ensure a fair NRC and not discriminatory one. Figure of 40 lakh only in draft NRC and not final.”

The Home Ministry on Monday said the final list would be published by December 31. An unidentified senior official at the ministry said that the process of claims and objections to the draft NRC will start from August 30 and go on for a month.

The stated aim of the counting exercise, launched in 2015, is to separate genuine Indian citizens from so-called illegal migrants living in the state. As per the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner. Over the course of three years, the exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.