NEW DELHI, Aug 16 - The Supreme Court today sought the opinion of stakeholders on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) submitted to the court by the Centre for disposal of claims and objections in the NRC update process. The organisations have been directed to submit their views by August 25.
A Bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Fali Nariman sought the response of the All Assam Students Union, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (P), All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Joint Action Committee for Bengali Refugees, Indigenous Tribal Peoples Federation, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, Assam Public Works, All Assam Minority Students Union and Assam State Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind on the SOP.
The Bench further asked the State National Register of Citizens (NRC) Coordinator, Prateek Hajela to place before it in a sealed cover the data of district-wise percentage of population excluded from the NRC draft in Assam.
While seeking the views of AASU, AAMSU, Assam State Jamiat and other stakeholders, the Supreme Court ruled out involving the political parties in the exercise.
At the outset of the hearing on being asked, who were the stakeholders whose views could be elicited on the SOP, Hajela said that in the past, political parties were involved in the consultation process.
Saying that the process for the receipt of claims and objections would commence from August 30, the court said that the SOP would be finalised on the next date of hearing on August 28.
While approving the first three time lines relating to informing the public about bailout reasons of non-inclusion, capacity building of public including making available blank claim and objection forms to public and the receipt of claims and objections, the court said that other timelines mentioned in the draft SOP would not be applicable, as the Supreme Court would decide the same.
The complete draft NRC that was published on July 30 incorporated the names of 2,89,83,677 people, leaving out a total of 40,70,707 people being ineligible for inclusion. Of the 40,70,707 people, 37,59,630 names were rejected, while 2,48,077 names were kept on hold.
According to the SOP, the Centre referring to the Supreme Court order dated July 22, 2015, has mentioned that it has been observed in some instances that persons have not been able to provide documents to satisfactorily prove their residence in any part of the country, outside Assam, up to March 24, 1971. As such, it is proposed to make provisions for such persons similar to Rule 4 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rule, 2003 and the clause 3(3) of its schedule.
The SOP has proposed that the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration (LRCR) will issue notices to persons concerned in respect of hearings to be undertaken by the authorities disposing of claims and objection, correction or application in respect of �D� voters, declared foreigners or their descendents. Notice will also be served to the person against whom the objection has been raised along with the grounds stated in the objections.
Disposal of all claims and objections will be done through holding of hearings wherein claimants and objectors will be asked to attend. Claimants will be required to bring evidence they wish to adduce in the hearings to substantiate their claims. They would bring with them such persons whose oral evidence is admissible, to testify for them.
For the purpose of establishing the linkage, oral evidence may be recorded of such persons, who are blood relatives, namely siblings, close relatives or government functionaries who can certify the linkage. Other family members accompanying the applicant may provide assistance during the course of the hearing. NRC authorities will also issue notice to all users of their legacy data to appear in these hearings.
The SOP has also laid down that the LRCR may at the time before the final publication of NRC in Assam may direct to cause verification of names already included in the final draft NRC, if considered necessary. The verification may be carried out by the LRCR or any officer authorised by the DRCR.
The LRCR will ensure that the applicant is served the notice at least 15 days prior to the date of hearing. If the notice is received late, an alternative date of hearing will be fixed and a fresh notice with 15 days time will be ensured by the LRCR.
About the level of disposal of claims and objections, the SOP has said that applications received under clause 2 of the schedule appended to Rule 4A of the Citizenship Rules, 2003 have been verified and scrutinised and the decision for their inclusion in the draft NRC has been taken at the level of the LRCR.
Meanwhile, AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya welcoming the court�s decision said while they are hopeful of having a Bangladeshi-free NRC, they want to ensure that names of indigenous people are included in the NRC.
APW president Aabhijeet Sarma said they have drafted set modalities to ensure inclusion of indigenous people, whose names have been dropped, in the NRC. Now that the Supreme Court has asked they will submit the same before the apex court, he said.
Assam State Jamiat secretary Dr Hafiz Rafique Islam said they would hold a meeting to finalise their views on the SOP. He also welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to seek the views of various stakeholders on the SOP.