Don’t take any coercive action over Assam’s draft NRC: Indian SC
India's Supreme Court today ordered that no coercive action should be taken by authorities against over 40 lakh people whose names do not figure in Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC), observing that it was merely a draft.
The top court also directed the Centre to formulate modalities and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) including timelines for deciding claims and objections arising out of the publication of the draft NRC, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
A Supreme Court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice RF Nariman asked the Indian government to submit the modalities and SOPs before it for approval within August 16.
"This court would like to observe that what has been published is only a complete draft of NRC, which naturally being a draft cannot be a basis for any coercive action by any authority," the bench said.
The modalities and SOPs prepared by the ministry concerned of the government of India should be "fair and giving reasonable opportunity to everyone", it said.
The bench also said under the rules, the local Registrar is first required to issue notice to file claim and objections to the draft NRC and then give a reasonable hearing after providing equal opportunity to all.
The NRC Assam Coordinator Prateek Hajela placed before the court its status report giving details of publication of the draft NRC yesterday.
Being asked the future course of action after the publication of draft NRC, Hajela informed the bench that the claims and objections regarding inclusion and exclusion in the NRC could be filed from August 30 to September 28.
"You should place before the court how you propose to do the exercise of claims and objections as it has to be a fair procedure and the persons aggrieved should be given fair opportunity," the bench told Hajela.
The bench also said, "We read it somewhere that you have fixed December 31 as a deadline for publication of final NRC."
In response to the bench's query, Hajela informed that "no date has been fixed as the deadlines can only be fixed by the court".
"The date of December 31 has been fixed for budgeting exercise," he added.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Indian government, said the ministry concerned is willing to formulate modalities and the SOPs to deal with the process of claims and objections and that courts should assure or direct that no coercive action shall be taken against anyone till equal opportunity is given to all.
"You (government) give us the modalities or SOPs. We will go through it. If it is appropriate we will approve it and if it is not appropriate we will reject it. Tell us what do you think. It has to be a fair procedure with equal opportunity given to all," the bench said.
Venugopal told the court that the government is contemplating to develop biometrics of the 40 lakh people, who have been excluded from second draft NRC, so that if a declared foreigner escapes to another state under a false identity, then he can be tracked by the authorities.
"You do whatever you like. At this moment, we would not like to comment. You do it, and then we will examine it. Our silence is not a symbol of agreement or assurance," the bench said.
The top court, which is monitoring the NRC work, had earlier said that the claims of those citizens, whose names do not figure in the draft NRC for Assam published by December 31 last year, would be scrutinised and included in the subsequent list if those are found genuine.