NEW DELHI, Dec 1 - Following a plea by Nodal Officer Prateek Hajela, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to defer the schedule for publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), declining to fix a new schedule. It directed that the NRC should be published �as soon as possible�.
A Division Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Ronginton F Nariman today, while responding to the status report filed by Hajela, directed that the NRC work should be completed �as soon as possible�. The Court fixed the next date of hearing on January 13, 2016.
The Court was responding to a plea by Hajela, who expressed doubt over the possibility of meeting the deadline set by the Court. He explained that the method of NRC verification work was time consuming.
According to the earlier schedule, the draft NRC was scheduled to be published on January 1 and the final NRC on March 31.
Meanwhile, the Bench ruled that Government employees engaged for the purpose should exclusively work on the NRC updating work.
As reported by this newspaper, the State Government through different notifications had sought to divert its manpower towards some other works. The State Government�s notification led the Registrar General of India (RGI) to ask Dispur to give �utmost priority� to the process of updating the NRC.
Meanwhile, the Counsel for the Assam Government informed that the State Government has made all arrangements to make the Judges Committee fully functional. The Government of Assam has made all arrangements to make it functional, the apex court was informed.
This newspaper had reported how the State Government�s lackadaisical attitude had turned the Judges Committee non-functional.
Further, the Supreme Court also wanted to know whether the desired infrastructure, manpower and fund requirements have been given.
Meanwhile, the Nodal Officer submitted a revised estimate of Rs 660 crore to the Union Government. The Government of India�s Counsel informed the Court that the Ministry of Home Affairs received the revised estimate yesterday.
The Supreme Court ruled that the matter will be considered by the Union Government. The Government of India had sanctioned Rs 288 crore for the NRC update project.
Meanwhile, the Counsel representing the Union Government Border Committee, constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court, met on November 24, and the next meeting is scheduled to be held on December 4. The Coordination Committee headed by Special Secretary, Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs includes the State Chief Secretary.
The apex court was told that the Committee is trying to sort out the problems and an action plan is proposed to be formulated according to the direction of the Supreme Court.
Taking up the plea of Assam Public Works (APW), the Supreme Court directed the petitioner to give all suggestions to the NRC Nodal Officer. The Court also said that anyone can share any suggestion with the Nodal Officer. �Any organisation can submit proposal to the Nodal Officer,� it ruled.
Advocate to petitioner Gaurav Pachnanda referred to the suggestion given to the Court on October 6, regarding the verification process.
Based on the Upamanyu Hazarika report, APW in its petition had claimed that the voters list of Assam was saddled with 41,39,329 lakh of �excess� voters, over and above the normal growth of voters upto 2006.
Meanwhile, hearing the petition of Sadou Asom Jatiya Sangram Parishad, who filed an intervention petition, the Division Bench referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.
The All Assam Ahom Association, who is also one of the petitioner in the case, has challenged Clause IV of the Citizenship Act. The Bench today referred this matter also to the Constitution Bench.
Meanwhile, in a Lok Sabha reply, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, HP Chaudhary denied that there was any controversy in Assam over updating of the NRC. The NRC is updated according to the provisions of the Citizenship Act1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The NRC is updated on the basis of electoral rolls with the cut-off date being midnight of March 24.
Meanwhile, the All Assam Students� Union (AASU) has welcomed the measures taken to strengthen border management along the Indo-Bangladesh border. AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya also blasted Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for trying to create hurdles in the process of updating the NRC.