A July deadline has been set by the Supreme Court for the final draft of the citizens' list in Assam, meant to recognise Indians living in the state and identify those who entered illegally from Bangladesh. The initial list last year left out over 40 lakh people, who were then allowed to file claims and objections. The final list has to be out by July 31 and no further extension will be allowed, the Supreme Court said today.
"Notices will be issued to the claimants 15 days before the hearing that starts on February 15," Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela told the court.
The draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on July 30 last year and included the names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people who had applied for inclusion. Of the 40 lakh people who failed to make it to the list, over 36 lakh have submitted claims, say the coordinator of the NRC.
Assam is the only state where the citizens' list -- first made in 1951 -- is being updated following huge protests over the influx of from Bangladesh, on since the early 20th Century. The process was started in 2005 under the then UPA government, but it got a major push after the BJP, which had illegal immigration from Bangladesh as one of its poll planks, came to power in 2014.
But the draft list of citizens had triggered huge protests. The opposition parties accused the government of targeting Muslims, using illegal migrants as a pretext.
Despite home minister Rajnath Singh's assurance that the list was a draft and there was no need panic, people in Assam remained apprehensive. The centre as well as the BJP-led government in Assam promised that there would be no arrest or deportation until all the claims in the NRC draft were verified.
"Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear," the Registrar General of India had said.
Today, the top court also said the upcoming national election and the NRC process must go together without affecting each other, and directed the chief secretary of Assam government, secretary of Election Commission and the NRC coordinator in the state to sit together and decide how the staff has to be accommodated for the two exercises.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice RF Nariman said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Assam government, will ensure that the meeting takes place within seven days and the court is informed by February 5, when it wil take up the case again.
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