The Supreme Court Wednesday reiterated that it will not extend the July 31 deadline for publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and said the NRC work and Lok Sabha polls can go on simultaneously in the state. The Centre informed the top court that 167 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) deployed in the state will not be diverted for poll duty.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman said requisite manpower and technology needed for publication of final NRC by July 31 will be provided. "We will not extend the deadline for publication of final NRC on July 31, 2019. Lok Sabha polls and NRC work can go on simultaneously," the bench said after state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela submitted that some of the officials engaged in the NRC exercise have been assigned poll duty.
Hajela also said he needs them back to join the NRC exercise post-poll in order to meet the deadline. "Till elections in the state are over, I have to work with the current set of people. But after the polls, more people will be needed for the NRC work. I will also be needing IT people for quality checks and data entry to meet the deadline of July 31," Hajela said.
The bench said, "All we are concerned is meeting the deadline of July 31. After the polls, more manpower and technology support will be provided. How you do the work is your concern," the bench told Hajela. Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has passed an order by which 167 companies of CAPF currently engaged in NRC work will not be withdrawn from the state.
The top court posted the matter for further hearing on April 10 and said that in case of any difficulties faced in the publication work the bench would meet every month for 10 minutes to take stock of the situation. On February 5, the apex court had observed that the Centre is "hell-bent" on stalling the Assam NRC work while rapping it for seeking suspension of the process during the polls citing non-availability of security forces.
The court had reiterated it would not extend the deadline of July 31 and also directed that 3,457 state government officers be kept free for NRC work and asked the Election Commission to "examine the case of exemption of officers, in the rank of District Magistrates, Additional District Magistrates...from transfers which are likely to be made in view of the elections". The Centre had said that in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, 2,500 CAPF companies were deployed and this year, around 2,700 would be needed to ensure law and order.
It had said 167 CAPF companies, which are presently overseeing NRC works in Assam, would be sent to other parts of the country during elections. The top court had said on January 24 that the July 31, 2019 deadline to finalise the NRC cannot be extended.
The draft National Register of Citizens for Assam was published on July 30, 2018, in which the names of 2.89 crores of the 3.29 crore people were included. The names of 40,70,707 people did not figure in the list. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold. The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31, 2017, and January 1 in accordance with the top court's direction. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then. Assam, which had faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state to have an NRC, first prepared in 1951.
(With inputs from agencies.)