Don’t bother about criticism, Assam NRC exercise to be completed by August 31, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Thursday brushed aside criticism and statements made in the Assam Assembly and outside relating to the exercise carried out for National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said it wanted the deadline of August 31 be adhered to. A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman referred to the report of Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela in which he mentioned about leakage of information on it in Assam Assembly and certain statements made by leader of opposition there and Santanu Bharali, legal advisor to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The bench, which is monitoring the Assam NRC exercise, said it was not concerned with any of such statements and was only looking at the entire exercise of NRC being completed within the deadline of August 31. You (Hajela) have drawn our attention about the statement made by the leader of opposition regarding revealing of information in the Assembly and also about press statement by Santanu Bharali on the issue of secrecy of the data, the bench said. Also read: When some orders are being passed by the judges or the court, some people criticise them, the apex court said. Our orders, our actions are being subjected to debates and criticism every moment. We are not bothered by it. If we will go into all this, we will never complete the task, it added. The top court said it was not bothered about what was being said about the NRC exercise. What we want is that let the NRC come out within the deadline of August 31. Who like it, who do not like it, we do not bother, the bench said. At the outset, the bench interacted with NRC coordinator and told him that perhaps, he is seeking suggestion for maintaining the secrecy of the data collected during the exercise. During the hearing, the apex court was told that around 33,000 people coming from an area in Kamrup district have to be verified after it was noted that there have been complaints of inadequacy in issuing notices. The bench also deliberated on provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 which have been applied for considering the individuals under the NRC. The bench said it will pass an order as to whether the inclusion will be based on section 3 (1)(a), 3(1)(b) and section 3 (1)(c) of the Act after receiving a note from Hajela. On July 23, the top court had extended the deadline for publication of the final NRC in Assam by a month to August 31 while rejecting the pleas seeking permission for 20 per cent sample re-verification. The Centre and the Assam government had sought permission for sample re-verification to find out wrongful inclusions, especially in districts bordering Bangladesh, and exclusions of persons in the NRC which was to be published by July 31. The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31, 2017 and January 1, 2018 in accordance with the top courts direction. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then. Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC which was first prepared in 1951.