NEW DELHI, March 8 - The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the work on the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) should not be held up on the legality of the order by the Gauhati High Court rendering residency certificates (RCs) issued by gaon panchayat secretaries invalid.
The Supreme Court’s direction came even as the Government of India and Government of Assam clarified that they will not challenge the Gauhati High Court’s order.
On February 28, the Gauhati High Court ruled that residency certificates issued by gaon panchayat secretaries will no longer be considered as a valid link document for NRC update process.
On Wednesday, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, advised the Assam NRC Coordinator not to stall the work on draft NRC. It said that the updating process should not be stopped till an appeal is filed challenging the Gauhati High Court’s order in the Supreme Court.
The apex court suggested that if need arises then the 48 lakh NRC applications be segregated and if required a supplementary NRC may be published on a later date. The court said that document No. 13 or any other issues should not hold the process of updating the NRC.
NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela informed the Supreme Court that he will be able to publish the draft NRC by March 31, 2018. However, the court refused to allow him one-year time. The court asked him to publish it as early as possible. The case will again come up for further hearing on April 19.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also took up the issue of financing the NRC update process. A meeting of the Expenditure Finance Committee on additional sanction of funds has been convened on March 10, which will be attended by the NRC coordinator and officials of the Government of Assam and the Union Home Ministry.
The Supreme Court was told that the total estimated cost was Rs 908 crore of which the Centre has given Rs 307 crore and is going to release another tranche of Rs 100 crore, while the Assam Government has given Rs 130 crore as loan. The nodal officer is yet to receive the balance amount of Rs 501 crore minus the State’s loan, the court was informed.
The Supreme Court also took up the report, submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in a sealed cover, on the fencing works along the India-Bangladesh border. It, however, rejected the MHA plea that the contents of its report in sealed covers be kept confidential. The apex court had asked the Madhukar Gupta Committee to monitor the progress of the border fencing works and the committee has to report the progress of border fencing works every six months.