Hitesh Dev Sharma, the state coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, has filed a case against his predecessor Prateek Hajela, alleging “indulgence in anti-national, and criminal activities”.
“It is suspected then state coordinator Prateek Hajela willfully avoided the re-verification of remaining 33,794 persons out of 64,247 marked as ‘Originally Inhabitants of Assam’ of Chamairman Circle in particular and reverification of ‘OI’ marking of other circles as a whole to facilitate the entry of ineligible persons’ names into NRC, which can be treated as not only a dereliction of duty, but treason as such an activity is likely to threaten the national security,” reads the first information report (FIR).
Sharma has requested to book Hajela under sections 120B, 166A, 167, 181, 218, 420, and 466 with sec 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
The annexures B of the FIR copy read: “It may be mentioned that the list of officers and data entry operators is prepared only on the basis of sample check. Had there been a scope for verifying the whole database, the figure of errors would have been much more. The uploading of wrong results in such large numbers cannot be seen as normal error, but an intentional act threatening the national security. Hajela used the software which had no provision of quality checks enabling the verifying officers and the data entry operators to freely upload wrong results of Family Tree matching with ulterior motive.”
‘NRC CAN’t BE USED AS EVIDENCE’
Assam’s final NRC was published with much fanfare in August 2019. Meant to be a list of legal Indian citizens living in the state, it was compiled after two draft versions and excluded 19 lakh applicants.
“Assam Public Works Department was shouting against this corruption. The names of more than 80 lakh illegal Bangladeshis have been entered in the NRC. Today, this FIR has proved that we were right all through. This should have been done some one-and-a-half years ago. Hajela should be arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Names of lakhs of illegal Bangladeshis have been entered in the NRC,” said Abhijit Sharma, chairman, Assam Public Works Department, which is the main petitioner in the case in the Supreme Court against the names of illegal Bangladeshis in the voters’ list.
Sharma earlier wrote to Assam’s foreigners’ tribunals – quasi-judicial bodies that decide on matters of nationality – asking them not to rely on the August 2019 document. “The August 2019 NRC was not the final NRC and its “results” are likely to change. Thus, it cannot be treated as evidence for disposal of cases under judicial or quasi-judicial process,” Abhijit said.
HAJELA TRANSFERRED IN NOV 2019
The NRC in Assam is a list of Indian citizens living in the state. The citizens’ register sets out to identify foreign nationals in the state that borders Bangladesh.
The process to update the register began following a Supreme Court order in 2013, with the state’s nearly 33 million people having to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971.
The updated final NRC was released on August 31, 2019, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the list.
Hajela, a 1995-batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was appointed by the Apex Court as the NRC state coordinator in 2013.
On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court ordered Hajela’s transfer from Assam to his home state Madhya Pradesh and he was released from the charge of NRC state coordinator.
Abijit Sharma earlier had filed an affidavit both in the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court against Hajela, highlighting “anomalies” in the NRC as names of about 40 per cent illegal and doubtful persons were inserted in the list.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma had said that his government wants reverification of 20 per cent names in the NRC for the border districts of Assam, while it should be done for 10 per cent names in the rest.
The first NRC was compiled in Assam in 1951 based on the Census report, but it was not updated. The APW in 2009 filed a case in the Supreme Court praying for deletion of foreigners’ names from electoral rolls and updation of the NRC. A pilot project for the process started in two places the next year, but it was shelved after four persons were killed in violence in one area.
In 2013, the Supreme Court took up the APW petition, directed the Centre and the state to begin the process to update the NRC. The state coordinator’s office was also set up. The updation process of the NRC finally began in 2015.