The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Assam state coordinator for finalising the National Register of Citizens, Prateek Hajela, to conclude his labours by July 31, exactly a year after the draft NRC had been declared. There is perhaps no other way to go about the exercise than have a cutoff date, which imparts finality to such a process. If a genuine mistake occurs after the NRC's finalisation in Assam, the only state in the country to have produced a list of its citizens based on the 1951 census (others saw no need), judicial remedy is always available.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the NRC coordinator was to use his "wisdom" and conform to the law. This is important. Since the BJP and the Centre pressed for passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to allow Hindus, who would otherwise have been excluded under the 1985 Assam Accord, the coordinator's job has become more complex.
The influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was in the forefront of the signing of the Assam Accord, has said efforts were on to undermine the NRC by those who had sought to bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The AASU and Congress have alleged that "fake" applications were being made complaining of exclusions from the draft NRC. The suspicion is fuelled by the fact that practically all the 2.65 lakh objections were filed on December 31, 2018, the last date for doing so. The NRC coordinator should also keep in mind that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is not yet the law.