Publication of NRC: Assam CM Sonowal faces SC wrath
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for his "intervention" in the process of publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is being monitored by the top court.
The apex court observed that when it was monitoring the process of preparation and publication of the draft NRC, which is meant to identify original residents of the state to check illegal migration, through a court-appointed committee, no agency or authority can make such a statement.
A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman warned that if the authorties intervened in the matter like this, it would "wash off its hands" as it does not appreciate such moves.
"We do not appreciate any other authority intervening in the matter of preparation and publication of the draft NRC when this court has been monitoring the process," it said.
The counsel representing Assam government said there was no intention on the part of the Chief Minister to interfere in the apex court proceedings.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that though the deadline for publication of draft NRC was said to be March 31, 2018, the Chief Minister has stated that this would be done on or before December 2017.
"Last time you had told us that you will do it by March 2018. It is good that you are doing it. But we have an on- record statement of Chief Minister of Assam that the draft NRC will be published in December 2017. Let him supervise then. We will wash off our hands.
"When the Supreme Court is monitoring it, we don't see any other agency or authority to say that we will do it like this. Our attention is drawn to the Chief Minister's statement that he has revised the date to December 31, 2017," it said.
The apex court also observed that it has spent time and energy for almost two years for this and it was "not fair" on the part of the Chief Minister to make such a statement.
"When we are monitoring, how can anybody or any agency say this? We have spent two years time and energy on it. It is not fair to the court," the bench observed.
The court noted in its order that though Prateek Hajela, state coordinator, NRC Assam, had earlier stated before it that the date of publication of draft NRC would be around March 2018, now he has said that it would be published by December end this year. "Statement of the state coordinator is pursuant to the statement of the Chief Minister of Assam that draft NRC would be published on or before December 31, 2017," it noted.
"Be that as it may, we now understand that date of publication of draft NRC is on or before December 31, 2017," it said while adding that the budgetary allocation should be made available so that the work could be done by the year end.
However, the top court also said that if the coordinator faces any difficulty, including intervention by any other authority, he shall forthwith report it to the court.