SC gives 60-day window to file claims for Assam’s National Register of Citizens
The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed Assam National Register for Citizens (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela to start the process for accepting claims and objections for inclusion in the Final Draft NRC from September 25.
Those excluded from the list can file their claims and objections relying on one of the 10 documents Hajela had approved from the standard operating procedure (SOP) suggested by the Centre. The process will continue for 60 days.
A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman said those wanting to rely on the five documents about which Hajela had expressed reservation would get a chance to apply once the coordinator gives his views on the Centre’s amended SOP. As per a new affidavit by the Union ministry of home affairs, no change in family tree by claimants will be permitted at the stage of filing claims and objections.
The bench said, “We are not shutting out the rest of the five documents. All we are saying is that at this stage claims and objections shall be filed on the basis of 10 documents.” Justice Gogoi said Hajela’s report has raised apprehensions over the validity of the five documents. Justice Nariman said it is felt that these documents can be forged. Both judges clarified that filing of claims and objections was a concession given by the court.
“There are some materials which have been given in the confidential report to us. Its not in public interest to disclose it...
“We have to protect the officer who has given this information. If we expose it, then tomorrow if we ask for more information he won’t be able to give it to us,” Justice Gogoi told attorney general KK Venugopal who urged the court to share the report. “Interest of the public is as safe in the hands of the Union of India as it is in the hands of the court,” the top law officer said.
The bench said after getting Hajela’s view it will consider after a month whether to allow the other five documents as well or not. It will hear the matter on October 23.
“We are of the view that the order that would be required to be passed at this stage is to open the process for receipt of claims and objections in respect of entries in the final draft NRC published on 30th July, 2018. The said process of receipt of claims and objections will now begin on and from 25th September, 2018 and will be remain open, tentatively, for a period of 60 (sixty) days effective from 25th September, 2018,” the court ordered.
Hajela was directed not to share his confidential report he has submitted to the top court with any one from the legislature, executive or judiciary. The report shall remain in a sealed cover with the court.
The SC also issued notice to the Centre, Assam government and the NRC coordinator on a plea filed by two lakh Gorkhas excluded from the draft list.
Both Venugopal and additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta tried to impress upon the top court on behalf of the Centre and the Assam Government respectively to consider allowing the five documents in the wake of its new stand. Venugopal said most of the people in rural areas of Assam were illiterate. Two of five papers, Venugopal said, were permitted as per the law related to citizenship of Assam residents. The two documents are electoral roll and NRC draft of 1951.
Hajela’s version was asked for after the co-ordinator revealed that 93-94 per cent of applications for the NRC were based on voters list and the NRC draft of 1951.
But the court repeatedly said it will consider allowing the rest of the five documents for filing of claims and objections after a month.
The final draft NRC list was published on July 30 in which names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included. The names of 40,70,707 people did not figure in the list. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold.