The Supreme Court on Thursday said that all claims and objections for inclusion of names in Assam’s National Register of Citizens should be filed by December 15, PTI reported. It also allowed claimants to submit as proof of identification five documents that were earlier declared invalid by project coordinator Prateek Hajela.

These include the National Register of Citizens of 1951, voter lists of 1966 and 1971, refugee registration certificate till 1971, and ration card issued till 1971. Till now, ten legacy documents, issued since the midnight of March 24, 1971, could be used for verification of names in the draft National Register of Citizens.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also set a deadline of January 15 for issuing notices to claimants and February 1 for the verification of documents.

The Supreme Court in September had asked Hajela to file a report on the feasibility of using the five excluded documents as part of the registry’s verification process. Hajela had claimed that people were misusing the documents to help “include illegal migrants” that was leading to errors in the list. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Pary, Opposition Congress, and All India United Democratic Front and several other political parties and groups had pushed for the inclusion of these five documents.

Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia said he welcomed the court’s decision. “This order has come as a huge relief for lakhs of genuine citizens,” he said.

The register

The stated aim of the counting exercise in Assam is to separate genuine Indian citizens from those the government calls “illegal migrants” who might be living in the state. According to 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.

Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.

A final draft of the National Register of Citizens, published on July 31, left out the names of 40 lakh applicants, leading to the claims and objections process.