Day 5 ArgumentsAssam’s National Register of Citizens
March 13th 2019
The Division Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi (then Justice) and Rohinton Nariman J is monitoring the National Register of Citizens (NRC) under the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003.
On the previous date of hearing, the Court had rejected the plea of the Central Government to suspend the NRC work in view of the upcoming elections. It directed the State of Assam to deploy an adequate number of State Government officials, as indicated by the NRC Coordinator. Further, CJI Gogoi requested the Election Commission of India to consider exempting certain State officers (DM and ADM) from election duty related transfers.
In today’s hearing, Mr. Hajela, the State Coordinator of the NRC submitted his report, which detailed the steps undertaken by the Election Commission. In the previous hearing, the Court had directed the Election Commission to take steps to ensure that an adequate number of Government officials are present on the ground, to ensure the implementation of the NRC.
CJI Gogoi noted that no specific difficulty had been brought forth at this stage and directed that Mr. Hajela continue the NRC work in order to ensure that the deadline for completion was met. The deadline is 31st July, 2019.
Mr. Hajela made two requests to the Bench. First, he requested the Court to make more manpower available to the Office of the State Coordinator after the elections. He noted that, during the elections, he would continue to work with the available manpower. However, he emphasised that he would require more personnel after the elections, in order to ensure that the work was complete by 31st July. CJI Gogoi inquired whether Mr. Hajela was requesting that persons who had been assigned election related duties resume work for the NRC once the elections were done with. Upon confirmation of the same by Mr. Hajela, CJI Gogoi observed that there was no need for orders to that effect at this stage as the same could be looked into after the month of April. He emphasised that the Court would continue to routinely monitor the progress of the NRC by taking up the case for short hearings.
Second, Mr. Hajela’s raised a previously made request, namely that the Court make available IT professionals and additional resources to the Office of the State Coordinator. CJI Gogoi responded that the Court would like that he take all steps necessary to complete the ongoing updating of the NRC by the July 31st deadline.
CJI Gogoi also took note of the submission made by the Attorney General of India, MR K K Venugopal that the 167 companies of forces that have been deployed in Assam since November 2017, specifically due to the NRC would continue to remain assigned to the same.
The Bench will take up the case next at 2 PM on April 10th 2019, by which date Mr. Hajela, the coordinator of the NRC will submit his report on the work that has been undertaken in the relevant period.
Mr. Dushyant Dave raised a secondary issue. He raised the issue of persons being excluded from the NRC on the ground that their sibling(s) were declared foreigners. Specifically, Mr. Dushyant Dave said that people were being declared foreigners on the ground that a sibling of theirs was declared foreign.
Mr. Hajela clarified that a person could not be excluded from the NRC on the mere ground that one of their siblings was a foreigner. He emphasised that they would resolve such claims. Further, he submitted that the only persons being excluded and sent to detention centers, were those who were themselves declared foreigners or those were D voters (individuals lacking proper citizenship credentials).
Additionally, Mr. Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for the petitioner in one of the tagged petitions submitted before the Bench that his was a case where the person had been adopted but had later discovered his biological parents, however was being excluded from the NRC as the legacy data was that of his adoptive parents with no regard being had to the DNA results with respect to considering legacy of the biological parents.
CJI Gogoi stated that the Court was not inclined to go into individual cases at this stage and would deal with them at an appropriate stage. Further he informed Mr. Hajela that the Bench was taking a batch of petitions regarding the issue pertaining to detention centres and the status of Foreigner Tribunals on March 26th. It requested Mr. Hajela to present submission on the said date.