Supreme Court Sticks to NRC Deadline of July 31, Directs State Coordinator to Take Ex-parte Decisions on 'Objections'
According to official sources, 36 lakh claims and 2 lakh objections have been filed, so far. The names of 40 lakh people did not figure in the draft NRC published last year, and according to official sources – 50% of those excluded are Muslims.
Illustration by Mir Suhail.
Guwahati: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reiterated that the complete National Register of Citizens (NRC) should be published by July 31, and ‘not a day later’. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice RF Nariman gave ‘full power’ to state NRC Coordinator, Prateek Hajela to take ex-parte decisions on Objections for those thought to be wrongly included in the draft NRC.
The direction by the court came after Hajela explained the entire matter of Objections to the bench, citing how the complainants are not appearing before the panels during the hearing process. At this, the Supreme Court said, “exercise your discretion. Keep the law in mind.”
According to official sources, 36 lakh claims and 2 lakh objections have been filed, so far. The draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018 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, and as per official sources – 50% of those excluded are Muslims.
There have been mixed reactions over the Supreme Court decision - the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) restored their faith on the judiciary, and appealed to officials engaged in the process to work towards publishing a ‘Bangladeshi-free NRC’.
“We have 3 months in hand – the officials engaged in this process should work with renewed vigour to prepare an NRC that will not have a single illegal Bangladeshi. We believe that the state coordinator will give us a pure NRC,” said AASU Advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya.
“Ex-parte should be done only if the complainant is absent after two chances. There may be a genuine reason for being absent on a particular date. So, at least one more date should be fixed to give another opportunity. But what Hajela says is also a problem. If most do not appear, the authority cannot wait indefinitely,” said former Assam Director General of Police, Harekrishna Deka.
On the other hand, Abdul Kalam Azad, a research scholar, said that the NRC process under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court is 'all about delivering justice'.
“It's all about delivering justice. The State, more particularly, the SC should understand what is happening on the ground. SC should understand how the NRC authority is taking every possible step to exclude genuine Indian citizens from the NRC, and inflict maximum pain as possible. This is injustice. The NRC authority can't ensure the presence of the objector, but asks the entire dynasty of a person against whom the objection is made to be present.”
Recently, Congress MLA Nurul Huda said that people summoned to different districts for the hearing process of NRC claims and objections are being unnecessarily harassed.
“What is the logic behind summoning people to other places when you have NRC Seva Kendras (NSK) in almost every area?” questioned Huda, alleging that it is a conspiracy to stop people from attending the hearing process.
An NRC official chose to clarify, stating that Family Tree hearings are held at the place or district where the maximum number of legacy data users of a family are residing, whereas family-based hearings take place in circle headquarters.
“Hearings are held in that manner. If my sister is married in Jorhat, and my ancestral roots are in Guwahati, she will have to travel to Guwahati for the Family Tree verification,” the official source said.
Considering the circumstances in which Family Tree based hearings are held, an April 10 order of the Supreme Court said that the practice cannot be varied or modified.
However, the State NRC coordinator was asked to ensure that at the time of hearing of the claims, steps should be taken to ensure that no inconvenience is caused to the persons required to attend the hearing, and to see that they are not required to travel long distances, if possible.
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