Centre, Assam officer's report at odds over NRC re-verification

Centre, Assam officer's report at odds over NRC re-verification

The Centre and the Assam state coordinator for updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) seemed to be at odds on Friday over progress of the process, with the latter’s report, submitted to the Supreme Court, indicating that about 80 lakh names have been automatically re-verified while disposing of claims and objections against the draft NRC, while the Centre contested this.

Hearing a plea by the Centre and the Assam government seeking a 20-per cent sample re-verification in districts bordering Bangladesh, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heading a bench with Justice R F Nariman, told Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta that the report of Prateek Hajela, the coordinator for Assam, indicated that almost 80 lakh names may have been automatically re-verified while hearing claims and objections based on the family tree approach.

This may be even more than the 20 per cent re-verification that was being sought for, the CJI told Mehta, who replied that on ground, that did not seem to be the correct position.

Urging the court to allow sample re-verification, Mehta said that there is a “growing perception across the state that there are exclusions and inclusions, which are wrong”.

The “exclusions are more”, he said, adding that this was happening mostly in the border districts, apparently due to local influences.

He said the state coordinator has done an excellent work but “given the pace” of the process and the “quantity of people we need to deal with, which will be in lakhs”, there “may be some mistakes”. A sample re-verification would dispel any lack of confidence in the process, he submitted.

Mehta told the court, “We reiterate our commitment…. Illegal immigrants have to be dealt with. India cannot be the refugee capital of the world.” He added that the process, however, needs some tweaking to avoid doubts.

Hajela told the court that the supplementary list, which will have names of those additional inclusions and total exclusions, will be published on July 31. He sought one more month’s time to publish the final consolidated list.

Hajela said although his public engagements are over, the prevailing flood situation is causing some difficulties. He also said that NRC officials will need some time to write the final orders.

The bench did not pass any order on Friday on the plea of the Centre and Assam for re-verification and extension of the July 31 deadline set by court for publication of the final NRC. It asked Hajela to give a copy of his report to Mehta and fixed July 23 to hear it again.

The court also permitted Hajela to remove some portions from his report before giving a copy to the Centre.

Besides the 20 per cent sample re-verification of names included in the final draft NRC in border districts, the Centre and Assam have sought 10 per cent sample re-verification in the remaining districts of the state.

The final draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018.