The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed its displeasure over the slow pace at which work on the upgrading of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was going on in Assam as it directed the chief secretaries of 28 states to complete the verification of documents sent to them.
Assam’s State Coordinator of NRC, Prateek Hajela, in his report to the court had said that they had sent 3,05,995 documents to the state governments for verification but in most of the cases, no response was received.
These documents are from people who claim to be residents of Assam but say they were living in different parts of the country prior to 1971 – the cut-off date for the identification of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Expressing displeasure over the pace of the work, the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said that any failure to comply with the order of the court the Chief Secretaries would be asked to appear in person.
Referring to the documents sent to foreign countries for verification, the court asked the External Affairs Ministry to take-up the matter within the governments of countries concerned through Indian missions abroad.
Noting that the Election Commission too has not responded on the request for the verification of 10,83,919 claims, the court directed the Commission’s secretary to “forthwith respond to the request by the Project Co-ordinator”.
Similarly in respect of verification of 14.8 lakh PAN cards, the court noted that verification of 6.5 lakh PAN cards has been done.
Asking the Union Finance Ministry to address the matter in rest of the cases, the court also said that the Ministry would release requisite funds required to completing the project.
Directing the next hearing of the matter on December 15, the court in its order said it hoped and trusted that its directions would be implemented by all the authorities concerned.
The apex court had, in December last year, passed a slew of directions, including an order to the Central government to complete fencing work along India-Bangladesh border within three months to check cross-border influx of illegal Bangladesh nationals into Assam and streamline the process to deport them.
The bench, which is hearing various pleas arising out of its verdict on PILs on influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants to Assam, however, decided to keep monitoring implementation of its directions.
It had also laid a time-table for updating of NRC in Assam so that the entire updated NRC is published by the end of January 2016. The time has now been extended upto March 2017.