Guwahati, April 20: The Supreme Court today refused to accept ration cards as valid documents for including a person's name in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is being updated in Assam.
The development comes weeks after Gauhati High Court refused residency certificates issued by gram panchayats for the NRC update. The bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice F. Nariman gave the order after it was informed by NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela that the Centre had objections in accepting ration cards to prove citizenship.
Aabhijeet Sharma, president of NGO Assam Public Works, which is a party to the case, told The Telegraph that ration card was accepted as one of the 11 documents for NRC update by a cabinet sub-committee. "Nowhere in the country are ration cards accepted to prove citizenship. We had objected to it followed by the Centre," he said.
The court asked Hajela about the progress of the NRC update and the difficulties they were facing.
Hajela told the court that the Centre had sanctioned the required funds for NRC update but the expiry of the contract between the government and Wipro for technical work on March 31 was posing a problem. The court then gave permission to extend the contract period and asked the Assam government to take necessary steps.
The court also asked Hajela about the status of the 48 lakh panchayat documents rejected by Gauhati High Court. Hajela said they were waiting for notification from the Centre. The court said the Centre had already clarified that it will not challenge the high court order. However, it was brought to the notice of the judges that a petition had already been filed in the apex court challenging the high court order. The judges also raised the border fencing issue and said it would decide the next date of hearing after expiry of the time given to the Madhukar Gupta committee on border protection.
The court today reiterated it was closely monitoring the NRC update process and suggested that work on family tree, field verification and scrutiny be done simultaneously.
After the hearing, All Assam Students' Union (AASU) president Dipanka Kumar Nath and chief adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya welcomed the "positive" attitude of the court on the NRC update.
In a statement, AASU alleged that illegal migrants have been trying to include their names in the NRC with fake documents. The union demanded the state government and the Centre take all possible measures so that illegal migrants cannot include their names in the NRC with fake documents. It said that an updated NRC would safeguard the indigenous people of the state.