The process of drawing up a citizens' list in Assam cannot be suspended during the Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court indicated today. The central government, which had asked for a break, got pulled up by the court, which said it appeared that the Home Ministry was "bent on not carrying out the procedure".
"The Home Ministry is coming up with all sorts of excuses to delay the NRC (National Register of Citizens) process in Assam. The entire effort of the Home Ministry is to destroy the process of NRC. Should we summon the home secretary? Because AG and SG are not briefed properly," said Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The court had set a July deadline for the final draft of the citizens' list, meant to recognise Indians living in Assam and identify those who entered illegally from Bangladesh.
Last year, a huge controversy arose after an initial draft 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 last month.
This, however, is expected to clash with the possible schedule of the national elections, which are due by May.
Attorney General KK Venugopal - the government's highest law officer - pointed out today that during the elections, the Home Ministry will have to pull out 167 companies of paramilitary personnel currently deputed for NRC duty, for election duty. The matter, he said, involves national security.
"We are disappointed. We will not extend the 31 July deadline for the publication of the final NRC," Chief Justice Gogoi said today. The court said it can understand suspension of NRC work on the last date of nomination and polling day, but a three-week deferment will not be possible.
A final call, however, will be taken on the first week of March, the Supreme Court said.
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