The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the use of five more documents by claimants for the draft Assam NRC, saying the premise “better to exclude genuine person than to include a wrongful person” can’t be accepted.
It over-ruled the objections of state NRC coordinator that the documents to be relied upon to stake claim such as refugee registration certificate and ration card can be forged.
The claimants for draft Assam NRC can now stake claim with the help of total 15 documents provided in List-A of the claim form.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman also extended to December 15, the earlier deadline of November 25, for filing of claims and objections for draft NRC.
The five new documents allowed by the bench to prove the legacy for the claimants include extract of names in NRC, 1951; extract/certified copy of Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971 and Citizenship Certificate and refugee certificate issued by competent authority (up to March 24, 1971 midnight).
The other two legacy documents include Certified copies of pre-1971 Electoral Roll, particularly, those issued from Tripura and the ration card.
Rejecting the contention of Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela, the bench said, “your contention that refugees registration certificate, certified electoral rolls and ration card can be forged to stake claim cannot be sustained”.
It further said: “Your contention that it’s better to exclude the genuine person than to include a wrongful person cannot be accepted. We don’t agree with you”.
The bench noted that Hajela in its report filed in the court on October 4, had objected to the use of any one of the five documents saying that during the process of verification for inclusion of names in the draft NRC large number of forged documents were filed.
“It is our considered view that the mere possibility of filing of forged documents or that such documents were filed in the earlier exercise cannot be a ground to exclude the same from the impending process of filing of claims and objections,” the bench said.
It added that all such documents must be subjected to a thorough process of verification and would be accepted only after due and complete satisfaction of the genuineness of the same.
The Assam government in its response has sought inclusion of these five documents for claiming the status in draft NRC saying that the apprehension of forgery of documents can be taken care of by adopting some different means.
The Centre has also taken a similar stand as that of the Assam government and said that these five documents could be allowed to be use for staking claim in draft NRC.
“In this regard, we permit Hajela to undertake through his team a vigorous process of verification and have additional layers of such verification to ensure that
only and only eligible persons are included in the final NRC,” it said.
The court also accepted the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) prepared by Centre and fixed the time line for various stage in publication of draft final NRC.
The bench said that after the December 15, deadline for filing of claims, January 15, 2019 will be the deadline for issuance of notices by the competent authority to the claimants to accord them hearings and February 1, 2019 will be the deadline for commencement of the verification process.
It said that further details of the time schedule including the time for completion of verification/enquiry of the claims which will now be allowed will follow at the appropriate time and asked Hajela to file a report after December 15.
The court said that the documents filed by person belonging to state other than Assam shall also be accepted subject to back-end verification of the authenticity of such certificates.
Dealing with an application of Gorkhas, whose documents were not accepted by the authorities engaged in NRC work, the bench asked Hajela, “Do you have any problem with Gorkhas? Gorkhas are assets to the country. Include them in draft NRC”.
The apex court had on September 5 had allowed use any one of the 10 of a total 15 documents provided in List-A of the claim form to be used by the claimants for proving legacy.
The ten legacy documents which were made admissible include land documents like registered sale deed, permanent residential certificate issued from outside the State, passport and LIC insurance policy of the relevant period.
The final draft NRC list was published on July 30 in which names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included. The names of 40,70,707 people did not figure in the list. Of these, 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are on hold.
The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 in accordance with the top court’s direction. Names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated then.
Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC which was first prepared in 1951.