New Delhi, Aug 31, 2019-
The Supreme Court decided in 2013 to complete the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam after a petition was filed by an NGO in the matter riddled with complexities and having political overtones.
The NGO Assam Public Works moved the apex court, urging it to remove from the voter’s list the names of the migrants, who have been not included on the citizenship rolls. It pleaded before the court that the process to update the NRC should begin.
This was the first instance when a plea connected with the NRC matter knocked at the doors of the top court.
In December 2013, four months after the petition was filed, the apex court issued order to begin the process to update NRC.
After a gap of nearly 15 months, in February 2015, the actual process to update NRC started gathering momentum. This process was pinned on the distinction between bonafide citizens and illegal immigrants. Since then, the apex court has been closely monitoring the entire process.
The process of receipt of NRC Application Forms began at the end of May 2015 and August 31, 2015. A total of 3,30,27,661 members applied through 68,37,660 applications.
The particulars of the applicants were put under scrutiny to determine eligibility their inclusion in NRC.
Nearly, 52,000 state government officials were included in this mammoth exercise. Statutory officers, after examining documentation, decided on the inclusion and exclusion of people on the citizenship rolls.
State Coordinator Prateek Hajela had assured the apex court that the entire process of NRC update was meticulously carried out in an objective and transparent manner.
The state government published the first draft of the NRC in 2017. This process of NRC update in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. These rules were framed as per the cut-off date of 24th March (Midnight), 1971 decided as per Assam Accord.
In July 30, 2018, the Assam government released the second draft of NRC. Of the 3.29 crore who applied, 2.89 crore were declared genuine citizens, and this draft NRC excluded over 40 lakh people. December 31, 2018, was set as the deadline for the government to release the final version of NRC. However, it could not be met. Though, according to authorities concerned adequate opportunity was given to all persons at every stage of the process.
In the last two months, the apex court had to traverse through complex phases in the process to update NRC. The Centre and Assam government pressured it with pleas for re-verification of sample data citing corruption leading to rigging of the NRC. In August, several political statements were made in context of the NRC process, especially in the Assam Legislative Assembly, but it could not budge the apex court.
The apex court observed: “As far as the statement of the leader of opposition (in the Assembly) is concerned, we do not need to go into it. When some orders are being passed by the court, some people criticise themï¿½.Our orders and our actions are being subjected to criticism and debate, in fact every moment, but we are not bothered. I f we will go into all this, we will never complete the task.”
The court, replying to the criticism, said that it is not bothered if people have people issues with the process to update NRC. “What we want is that let the NRC come out within the deadline of August 31”, said the court.
On June 26, 2019, an additional draft on exclusion list was published, and on July 31, though the government was supposed to release the final version of the NRC, but it could not be published, instead got extended till August 31. (Agency)