Those left out of the draft National Register for Citizens (NRC) for Assam now have more time to stake their claim to citizenship and can also use five additional documents besides the 10 allowed earlier, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justice RF Nariman, however, clarified that reliance on these documents would be subject to “rigorous verification” for making fresh claims for inclusion in the register.
The deadline to submit the applications was extended from November 26 to December 15. The five documents permitted were part of the Centre’s draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prepared for dealing with claims and objections.
With the order, the bench brushed aside objections of state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela against the five documents, which are the 1951 NRC, electoral roll up to March 24, 1971, citizenship certificate and refugee registration certificate, certified copy of the pre-1971 electoral roll, particularly the one issued from Tripura, and ration card.
When Hajela contended there were chances of fake documents being filed, the court said: “Merely because there are chances of it being fake or fake ones being submitted in large numbers is no ground to shut it out totally.” “Better to exclude eligible persons than include ineligible is your approach,” CJI Gogoi commented.
The court allowed Hajela and his team to carry out a “vigorous process of verification” so that only eligible persons are included in the NRC.
The process of verification of the claims will start from April 1. The court did not fix a deadline to complete verification but said it should be done “as quickly as possible”. About 4 million people in Assam were excluded from the draft NRC published on July 31.
According to an earlier order, the top court allowed the claimants to rely on any of 10 documents: land documents, permanent residential certificate issued from outside the state, passport, Life Insurance Corporation of India insurance policy, any licence or certificate issued by any government authority, document showing service or employment under the government or public sector undertaking, bank or post office accounts, birth certificates issued by a competent authority, educational certificate issued by boards or universities and records or processes pertaining to court provided they are part of processing in a judicial or revenue court.