Oral Arguments: 5th February 2019

The Supreme Court Division Bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman is monitoring the National Register of Citizens (NRC) under the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003.

 

On the last date of hearing, the Court had extended the last date of filing claims and objections to the final draft of the NRC from 15th December 2018 to 31st December 2018. It had ordered the process of verification of claims to start on 15th February, 2019. Further, it had directed that copies of the draft NRC should be made available in subdivisional and gram panchayat offices to enable people to file their objections and keep track of their applications.

 

In today's hearing, Mr. Hajela, the coordinator of the NRC submitted his report to the Bench. The Bench was also apprised of the minutes of the meeting dated 29.01.19 by the Solicitor General of India. Further, Attorney General of India Mr. K K Venugopal made his submissions before the Court requesting that the NRC process be kept in abeyance in view of the upcoming General Elections to the Lok Sabha for 2019. Mr. Venugopal informed the Court that a total of 2700 companies of the Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) would be required to be deployed for the purpose of security during elections. He submitted that currently 167 companies have been deployed in Assam since November 2017, specifically due to the NRC. He stated that these 167 companies should be made available for the upcoming General Elections.

 

CJI Ranjan Gogoi was not inclined to suspend the NRC work in view of the elections and inquired how many companies of the CRPF were available in total. Mr. Venugoapl informed him that around 3000 companies were available and the total requirement was 2700. However the 3000 was inclusive of those currently deployed at the border. At this point. CJI Gogoi expressed his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Home Ministry observing that it appeared not be committed to seeing through the NRC project. Justice Gogoi further stated that the NRC work must go on and the Central Government must cooperate. In view of the submissions made by Mr. Hajela, that the officers deployed in Assam could perform their duties as well as carry out the work related to the NRC, CJI Gogoi observed that both the elections and the NRC work could go on simultaneously. 

 

The Court directed Assam to deploy an adequate number of State Government officials, as indicated by the NRC Coordinator. Further, CJI Gogoi requested the Election Commission of India to consider exempting certain State officers (DM and ADM) from election duty related transfers. He directed the Election Commissioner to consider the matter keeping in mind the updation of the NRC, which is set to be completed by 31.07.19.

 

The case will be heard next by the bench in the first week of March 2019.

(Court reporting by Disha Chaudhry)