The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to relax its earlier order to allow staff engaged in upgradation of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam to be diverted for the holding of panchayat and local body elections, saying work on the NRC can't be disturbed.
Refusing to "relax or modify" its February 20 order, the bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, in an only concession, allowed one Additional District Commissioner to be released for the panchayat and local bodies elections.
This too, the court conceded after Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Assam Panchayat (Constitution) Rules, 1995 says that the Deputy Commissioner "shall co-ordinate and supervise all works in the district within his jurisdiction in connection with the conduct of all elections to Panchayat".
"We will not permit to take out a single person involved in NRC exercise," Justice Gogoi said as counsel for the State Election Commission urged the court that the verification underway for the draft NRC could be balanced with the holding panchayat and local bodies elections.
"You should not have come to us for this in terms of our previous order (of February 20)," he said, asking the State Election Commission to hold elections in different phases.
As counsel tried to impress upon the court the need for manpower to hold elections, Justice Gogoi said: "We will not, we can't allow any interference with NRC work. For heaven sake, don't interfere with the work of NRC", asking SEC to outsource its election work or call people from other states.
The Supreme Court had on February 20 had directed the Assam government to complete the work on upgradation of the draft National Register of Citizens by May 31 and further door to door verification by June 30.
The court took exception to Registrar General of India Sailesh for "disturbing" the NRC's work.
Observing "This gentleman is putting spanners in the completion of NRC", Justice Gogoi asked Attorney General K.K.Venugopal to take note of it.
Saying that they have their own sources, Justice Gogoi told the Registrar General "don't drag your feet in the work of NRC".
As state co-ordinator for NRC Prateek Hajela informed the court that some of the states were not sending their reports, the court directed the Chief Secretaries of these states and Administrators of union territories to send the report so that the process of NRCs is completed.
If the states and UTs fail to send report by first week of May, the court asked Hajela to go ahead with their own verification process and complete the process by May end.
Saying that no further orders were required, the court directed the next hearing on May 8.
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