In a relief to about 40 lakh people left out of draft NRC for Assam, the Supreme Court on Thursday permitted five additional identity documents for filing claims and objections over non-inclusion in the final draft NRC for the state.
These additional identity documents are National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951; electoral roll up to 24th March, 1971; Citizenship Certificate; Refugee Registration Certificate and certified copies of pre-1971 electoral roll, particularly, those issued from the State of Tripura; and ration card.
Permitting these five identity documents, the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said the fear of an ineligible person getting into the NRC cannot be a ground for exclusion of genuine citizens.
"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 court said in its order.
Needless to say, the court order said, "all such documents must be subjected to a thorough process of verification and will be accepted only after due and complete satisfaction of the genuineness of the same".
The court said that objection of state coordinator of NRC Prateek Hajela to the five documents, specifically to the names in NRC of 1951 and names in electoral roll up to March 24, 1971 is "based entirely on a possibility of abuse which, however strong, cannot be an acceptable reason in law to exclude the documents from consideration".
While allowing five additional documents, the court extended the time for filing of claims and objections to December 15 from previously set November 25.
The court said that digitisation of documents will be completed by January 15. Thereafter, the notices would be issued and the verification of claims and objections would commence from February 1.
The court also directed Hajela to undertake vigorous verification of the five documents that would be relied upon to file claims for inclusion in and objection to exclusion from the final draft NRC.
Justice Nariman told Hajela that approach that it is "better to exclude a genuine person than include an ineligible is not correct", while Chief Justice Gogoi said: "We have gone through (the report) and we don't think you are right."
Endorsing the position, the Chief Justice said that merely because a forged document could be submitted cannot be the basis of excluding them as documents of identity proof. Even in the earlier exercise to prepare the draft NRC, a large number of documents were disputed, CJI Gogoi reminded Hajela.
The court on Thursday permitted the reliance on five more documents taking note of the position taken by the Assam government, the Centre and other stakeholders.
Earlier, the top court had permitted 10 identity documents for filing claims and objections for inclusion in or exclusion from Assam NRC.Besides the Centre and Assam, the court in the last hearing on October 23 had sought response from the All Assam Students Union, All Assam Minorities Students' Union, Jamait Ulama-i-Hind, Assam Public Works, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive), Indigenous Tribal Peoples Federation and the Joint Action Committee for Bangali Refugees on Hajela's objection on permitting five identity documents.