NEW DELHI, Aug 24 - The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing of the Gaon Panchayat certificate matter for six weeks, even as it asked the Project Coordinator for the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Prateek Hajela, to submit a report within four weeks on the number of Original Inhabitants. The case will come up for further hearing on October 12.
A division Bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Naveen Sinha resumed hearing of the case and heard all sides. The Project Coordinator informed the Court that they have received applications from 48 lakh GP certificates holders, out of which 20-22 lakh are female and 3.16 lakh male applicants. Hajela mentioned that they have to examine 40 lakh GP certificates and would need four weeks� time to execute the job.
Declining to extend the deadline of December 31 for publication of the draft NRC, the Supreme Court directed Hajela to submit a report within four weeks on the number of Original Inhabitants. After submission of the report, the Court would then take a call on the fate of the rest of the GP certificate holders. The Supreme Court, however, remarked that the GP certificates are only supporting documents.
The petitioners in the case included Rupajan Begum, All Assam Minority Students� Union (AAMSU), Assam State Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Assam Women Social Justice Forum and others.
Meanwhile, the Assam Government opposed the Special Leave Petition and favoured upholding of the Gauhati High Court order that had rejected the GP certificate. The Supreme Court has to now decide what has to be done with the rest of the GP certificate holders, said Assam Government counsel Shuvodeep Roy.
Explaining, he said they have pointed out that the GP certificates were not meant to prove citizenship, hence cannot be considered. In any case, out of the 48 lakh GP card holders, 28 lakh are Original Inhabitants (women) and additional 3.16 lakh male, whose cases cannot be considered.
He said the documents (GP certificate) were not preexisting but created after the process of updating NRC was initiated. The documents were created after the NRC process was started and were not preexisting,� said Roy.
Roy said they have opposed the SLP and sought upholding of the Gauhati High Court order.
The High Court on February 28 ordered that residency certificates issued by Gaon Panchayat secretaries will no longer be considered as a valid link document for the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
�If a Panchayat secretary issues such certificate and the same is later disbelieved by the Foreigners Tribunal or the High Court and the certificate holder is eventually declared as a foreigner, the issuing authority would run the risk of issuing the certificate to a foreigner,� the order had said.
�Such an act may be construed to be an act of harbouring an illegal migrant, which may amount to a gross misconduct exposing himself to departmental action besides attracting penal consequences. Such consequences may also visit the countersigning authority (which is the BDO),� the order had stated.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Court�s hearing, the All Assam Students� Union (AASU) adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said that they have come to know of the developments through advocates and they welcome the Court decision. He also urged the Supreme Court to ensure that the NRC is made entirely foolproof.