Centre requests Supreme Court to defer hearing in Assam NRC matter; final hearing now on Dec 5, 2023

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"These are 50 year old laws...there is no urgency", SG Tushar Mehta submitted today

The Supreme Court today resolved to take up the final hearing in the pleas pertaining to Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is a challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, from December 5, 2023.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned the Centre's request to defer hearing in the plea before a CJI DY Chandrachud led bench today.

SG Mehta submitted that they had just closed arguing a constitution bench matter on the electoral bonds scheme and required some time to prepare for the NRC hearing.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal endorsed the Centre's plea.

The bench also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra initially expressed its reluctance saying breaking a Constitution Bench was very difficult as it meant virtually rearranging the whole roster.

"We will start on October 17..so that we have a flavour of the matter when it opens..we can start reading etc..", CJI Chandrachud had said in September while refusing to accept the request made by Solicitor General Mehta to commence hearing in the case post Diwali.

The bench also comprising Justices Bopanna, Sundresh, Pardiwala and Manoj Misra has issued procedural directions in the matter while deciding that the title of the case shall be IN RE Section 6A of Citizenship Act.

Earlier, Union of India had placed a request before the Supreme Court of India for issuing procedural directions in the matter pertaining to Assam's NRC, when it would be taken up today by a Constitution Bench.

A bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud along with Justices AS Bopanna, MM Sundresh, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra will start hearing the Assam NRC case from September 20 along with two other matters.

Supreme Court of India had issued a notification recently stating that it had set up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the matter involving the issues of Assam NRC, reservations in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies and immunity for MPs and MLAs from being prosecuted for bribery charges.

The NRC case is on a challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act which was inserted through an amendment in 1985 in furtherance of the Assam Accord.

Section 6A is a special provision on the citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord and provides that the people who entered India between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, and have been living in Assam, would be allowed to register themselves as citizens of India.

Calling out this provision to be discriminatory, a direction is sought to the concerned authority to update the NRC based on the details incorporated in the NRC prepared in 1951 as opposed to updating the same by taking account of the electoral rolls prior to March 24, 1971.

Case Title: In Re Section 6A of the Citizenship Act