Arguments: 23 July 2019
Today, a two judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Nariman decided to extend the deadline for publishing the final list of NRC by one month to 31 August 2019. However, the court rejected the Union and state government’s request to conduct a re-verification process.
Previously on 10 July, the NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted a report seeking an extension of the deadline until 31 August.
Then on 16 July, the Union government and State of Assam made an urgent mention before the Supreme Court seeking more time to carry out a sample re-verification process of:
They submitted that the re-verification process would create an error-free NRC and ease citizens’ apprehensions about its accuracy.
On 18 July, the NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted a report stating that 27% of the population in Assam had already been re-verified, as re-verification is intrinsic to the claims and objections consideration process.
On 19 July, the Union government submitted that many wrongful inclusions of illegal immigrants had been made in the NRC due to the involvement of local officers in the NRC process, who are more susceptible to bias. Prateek Hajela also submitted that an additional month’s time was needed to publish the final NRC list. The court directed Mr Hajela to submit a copy of the 10 July report to the Union government.
Today’s hearing began with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta making two requests: (i) postpone the deadline for publishing the final NRC list; (ii) grant permission to carry out a re-verification process across all districts. He had also prepared a response to the State Coordinator’s 10 July report and requested to submit his response to the court in a sealed cover.
Chief Justice Gogoi questioned the number of times the court needed to assemble to hear this matter and stated that he was already satisfied with the State Coordinator’s 10 July report. He added that the court was willing to extend the deadline. However, he stated that the court was not inclined to permit the re-verification process, as it was not convinced of its necessity.
Attorney General KK Venugopal requested the court to consider further re-verifications. He began by recognizing that the State Coordinator’s 18 July report noted that 27% of the total population in Assam has already been re-verified. He also recognized the court’s 28 August 2018 order which had taken note of the court’s imperative to assess the necessity of a 10% re-verification process. Nevertheless, he argued that the re-verification process was necessary in districts bordering Bangladesh to correct any wrongful inclusions. He requested the court to allow a 5% re-verification process.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta added that wrongful inclusions are likely since the officers conducting the verification belong to the same area and are susceptible to bias.
State Coordinator Prateek Hajela pointed out that the officers conducting verification were not locals. He also submitted that there was no requirement for conducting re-verification.
After taking into account the State Coordinator’s 10 July report, the court ordered an extension of the deadline for publishing the final list of NRC to 31 August. However, the court did not permit the re-verification process, as the State Coordinator’s 18 July report had noted that 27% re-verification had already been conducted through the claims process itself. Further, the court allowed combining the clauses of Rules 4(5), 5 and 6 of the Schedule to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, on the basis of the State Coordinator’s submission in the 10 July report.
The next hearing is on 7 August. The court will hear NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela’s prayer in the 10 July report which proposes that: