The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear on an urgent basis the Centre and Assam government’s petitions to postpone the publication of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, The Hindu reported. The list is scheduled to be published on July 31.
The Narendra Modi government and the state filed identical, but separate, applications requesting the top court for more time to conduct a “sample re-verification process” of the names included in the draft National Register of Citizens published on July 30, 2018. The pleas were mentioned before a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, The Indian Express reported.
“But why should we grant an extension?” asked Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi even as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pressed for an early hearing. “We will have it on August 1 then,” he added. When the government counsel said the last date of publication of the database was July 31, Gogoi replied: “We will see.”
The pleas urged the court to pass an order “directing 20% sample re-verification of names included in the final draft in districts of Assam bordering Bangladesh and a 10% sample re-verification of names in the remaining districts”.
The Centre and the state said the re-verification exercise should be conducted by Class 1 officers of the state government from other districts who have the knowledge and experience of handling a process of inquiry.
The petitions also sought an order that the sample re-verification be undertaken at a venue different from where the National Register of Citizens exercise took place. The Assam government said this would rule out the possibility of local influences, bias or threat.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its application, attached a letter from Sachetan Nagrik Mancha, an Assam-based non-governmental organisation that had demanded an “error-free NRC”, The Hindu reported. The ministry said the organisation had forwarded an appeal to the president on June 29 from more than “25 lakh indigenous Indian citizens of Assam” demanding an “error-free NRC” containing the names of Indian citizens and exclusion of all “illegal migrants”.
Sanchetan Nagrik Mancha Secretary Atul Burman told The Hindu that the NGO worked for “national integration” and denied it was aligned to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The ministry informed the court of the “unprecedented large scale of complexities” involved in the process. The government said the NRC exercise had created apprehensions among citizens and could impact law and order in the state. “It is pertinent that the exercise of sample re-verification must necessarily follow before the publication of the final list,” the application said.
The applications were filed despite repeated orders and oral observations from the Supreme Court to finish the exercise by July 31, 2019.
The stated aim of the National Register of Citizens is to separate genuine Indian citizens from undocumented immigrants living in the state. According to the terms, anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered Assam before midnight on March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner.
More than 40 lakh people were excluded from the final draft of the register published on July 30, 2018. Those who did not make the draft list were allowed to make one last claim for inclusion before the publication of the final consolidated list. Authorities also allowed objections to be filed against people included in the final draft. The exercise has been embroiled in several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.
An “additional exclusion list” was published on June 26 which contained named of 1,02,463 people who were earlier included in the draft NRC list.
Read all the stories in The Final Count series here.
To get all The Final Count stories in your inbox every day, subscribe here.