Urgent MentioningAssam’s National Register of Citizens
July 16th 2019
Today, the Supreme Court heard an urgent mention for extending the July 31st deadline for publishing the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). Both the Union and the State of Assam requested the court to extend the deadline.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs, submitted that it will not be possible to complete the final publication of NRC by July 31st due to unprecedented, large scale complexities. He contended that the exercises to develop the NRC had led to apprehensions among citizens and that tensions could rise, with adverse implications for social harmony and law and order in Assam. He therefore stressed the need to conduct a sample re-verification before publishing the final NRC. He also submitted an affidavit from Assam-based NGO Sachetan Nagrik Mancha, Axom. The affidavit, signed by over 25 lakh ‘indigenous Assamese citizens’, appealed for an error-free NRC containing the names of all Indian citizens and completely excluding the names of all illegal immigrants.
Advocate Shuvodeep Roy, on behalf of the state of Assam, contended that a 20% sample re-verification process must be conducted in districts bordering Bangladesh, as illegal immigration would likely be higher, and in border districts whose population growth exceeded the State average. He also submitted that a 10% sample re-verification process must be conducted in all other districts.
Both Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Advocate Roy requested the court for more time to conduct a sample re-verification process of the names included in the July 30th 2018 NRC draft. To remove the possibility of bias, they suggested that the sample re-verification process be conducted by Class 1 state government officers from other districts with requisite expertise in enquiry and investigation processes. Further, they requested that the re-verification process be conducted in a different place from the NRC listing process.
The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose JJ questioned the grant of an extension. In past, the court has repeatedly stressed that the July 31st deadline must be met. However, in today’s hearing CJI Gogoi appeared willing to consider an extension, remarking ‘we’ll see‘. As of now, the July 31st 2019 deadline remains.