The Centre and the Assam government on Friday urged the Supreme Court to extend the July 31 deadline for publishing the final National Register of Citizens in the state, the Hindustan Times reported.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the governments, insisted that the authorities need to tweak the processes for including the names of genuine citizens in the list. “India cannot be the refugee capital of the world,” the government counsel told the top court.

Mehta said a sample re-verification of at least 20% of the inclusions in districts bordering Bangladesh was required. Most of the undocumented immigrants in the state come from Bangladesh. The solicitor general said many of the incorrect inclusions could be attributed to the immigrants’ collusion with local officials mandated to update the database.

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However, NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela told the bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice RF Nariman that around 80 lakh people, constituting almost 27% of the claims for inclusion in the list, were subjected to re-verification, reported Live Law. The judges then asked the solicitor general if further re-verification was required. The matter will be next heard on July 23 after Mehta peruses Hajela’s report.

The NRC coordinator also pointed out that the exercise had hit a roadblock because of floods in the state, and requested an extension of the deadline to publish the database. He said he would need about a month to publish the final list but would be able to come up with a supplementary list on July 31 with lists of fresh inclusions and exclusions.

The top court had refused an urgent hearing of the pleas on Tuesday. “But why should we grant an extension?” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had asked even as Tushar Mehta pressed for an early hearing. “We will have it on August 1 then,” he had added. When the government counsel said the last date of publication of the database was July 31, Gogoi had replied: “We will see.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in its application, attached a letter from Sachetan Nagrik Mancha, an Assam-based non-governmental organisation that has demanded an “error-free NRC”. The ministry said the organisation 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”.

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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.

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