The Supreme Court on Thursday rules that Assam must publish the draft of updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) by December 31. The top court dismissed a request for an extension, and directed state coordinator Prateek Hajela to deploy additional manpower to complete scrutiny of the remaining 38 lakh names in order to meet the deadline.”On the expiry of midnight of December 31, 2017, draft NRC pertaining to two crore claims which have been verified or likely to be verified by the said date and the additional 38 lakh claims, mentioned above, will be published,” a bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman ruled.Since 2014, the top court has been monitoring the exercise of NRC upgradation and fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border. NRC is meant to identify original residents of Assam to check illegal migration — primarily from Bangladesh.On a pointed query put forth by Justice Nariman as to whether, if extension for time is to be granted, there could be a request for further extension in the future; Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted that such a possibility cannot be ruled out and, if required, further time would be sought.However, once the order was pronounced, Venugopal submitted that fixing a date for publication of the draft NRC is really an executive function, adding that a court order to this effect would be an encroachment on the executive domain as well as a violation of doctrine of separation of powers.Venugopal added that Assam would face a law and order situation if the NRC was published before examining all the names on the list. “There will be agitation in the border state if the NRC excludes over one crore names,” Venugopal said. The Centre has already deployed additional companies to monitor and contain any hostile situation that may erupt, he added.Taking exception to the suggestion of judicial overreach, the bench contended that it had been hearing this matter for the past three years and the Centre had not yet advanced this contention before Court.(The Centre), “for the first time overlooks the fact that over a period of three years the Court has been monitoring the matter and fixing appropriate time-lines for the completion of different phases of the exercise of updating the NRC.”It is the sheer inaction on the part of the executive in dragging the matter for a period of over three years and the absence of any justifiable cause to hold back even a partial publication that has led the Court to direct publication of the draft NRC on or before 31st December, 2017,” the bench said.When the issue on border fencing came up, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Centre did not want India to become the refugee capital fo the world.However, the top court then pulled up the Centre on the slow pace of fencing at the Indo-Bangla border. When the committee submitted a report seeking more time, Justice Nariman asked the government why it was delaying the work that was started in 1987. Justice Nariman pointed out that the rate of fencing had dropped down to 26 kilometers per year from a record high of 381 kilometers per year at one point.”When we intervene, you tell us its separation of power,” Justice Nariman said. “We are asking for the protection of the country,” Justice Gogoi said. “Should we leave the fate of the country to your governance?” He added.The matter will now be heard on February 20.MONITORINGSince 2014, the Supreme Court has been monitoring the exercise of NRC upgradation and fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border SC directed state coordinator Prateek Hajela to deploy additional manpower to complete scrutiny of remaining 38 lakh names to meet deadline.
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Release draft NRC by Dec 31: SC