NEW DELHI, Nov 30 - The Supreme Court today rejected the Centre’s plea for extension of deadline for publication of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam. The draft NRC is scheduled to be published on or before December 31.
A Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Fali Nariman told Attorney General KK Venugopal that it can’t extend the deadline for publication of draft NRC list. The Centre through the Registrar General of Citizen Registration (RGCR) had proposed to publish the draft NRC on July 31, 2018.
However, the AG contested the decision of the Bench and said that “Court is exceeding in executive power as court has no authority to direct or fix date,” and added, “my submission may be recorded.” The Bench recorded the statement of the Attorney General and dismissed
The AG also submitted that publication of a truncated list will lead to a big law and order situation in Assam. The court rejected the contentions of the Attorney General.
The Bench also fixed February 20 as the next date of hearing and left for the NRC authority to publish the list now, likely to be in two parts.
The State Coordinator, Prateek Hajela informed the Bench that draft NRC containing names of two crore people can be published by December 31, but he is yet to enumerate 37 lakh more people. He said he can publish the list by January 15 after further vetting. The Bench however, refused and said that he can put in some extra effort and publish the list of 2.37 crore people by December 31.
Hajela further informed the court that he is yet to complete the verification of 47 lakh people belonging to the category of family tree. In addition, gaon panchayat certificate verification of 29 lakh people still remains to be done.
The Bench remarked that the State Coordinator should complete the task and publish the list. But it did not give any specific deadline.
On the issue of border fencing, the Bench rapped the government, remarking that the Border Committee’s report was not satisfactory. Mangotra Committee’s report on border fencing was handed over to Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta.
The court expressed displeasure describing it as unfortunate that only 26 km of Indo-Bangladesh border is being fenced every year for the last eight years. “At the ground what you are doing? You are doing nothing,” it remarked, adding, “we give up our hands.”
The court told the ASG that they only want to protect the country and don’t want to interfere in the executive’s domain. Mehta assured the court that the government will submit an action plan based on specific time-frame.
The Congress welcomed the apex court verdict and criticised the BJP-led NDA government alleging that it was keeping the issue alive to gain political mileage.
Addressing newsmen, State Congress president Ripun Bora, who was accompanied by 12 Congress MLAs, said that it was the Congress party that had started the NRC updating process, but the Sonowal government delayed the process for political gains. The entire process slowed down after the BJP government came to power, Bora alleged.
The role of Government of Assam and BJP in the matter of publication of draft NRC is suspicious, he remarked.
Hailing the court order, Assam State Jamiat secretary Hafiz Rashid Islam said they were hopeful of getting a good result. He also blamed the BJP government for adopting delaying tactics to keep alive the issue.
He also appealed to the people not to be apprehensive if they don’t find their names on the December 31 list. They should wait for publication of the second list, he said.
AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya welcomed the Supreme Court initiative and said they want the work on remaining one crore people of the State to be completed soon. “We want a Bangladeshi-free NRC and all steps should be taken to ensure that names of Bangladeshis are not included in the NRC. And for that if need be additional manpower can be mobilised and the job completed,” he said.
The Supreme Court has also pulled up the government for its failure to seal the international border. “Our contention that the Indo-Bangladesh border is open has been proved right. The international border should be sealed without any further delay.
Meanwhile, Assam Public Works president Aabhijeet Sharma said it is very unfortunate that the court today had to admit that it was forced to give up its hand. “If Assam is captured by Bangladeshis, even if it goes out of India, it is not Assam’s loss, but India’s loss. The rate at which the border work is going on is a matter of concern,” he said.