erstwhile Hajela’s mistakes threaten national security
Hitesh Dev Sharma, state coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, has registered a case against his predecessor Prateek Hajela, alleging him of “anti-national and indulging in criminal activities”.
“It is suspected that then State Coordinator Prateek Hajela specifically avoided re-verification of remaining 33,794 persons out of 64,247 marked as ‘Original residents of Assam’ of Chamerman circle and re-verification of ‘OI’ marking of other circles”. : Entry of names of ineligible persons in the NRC as a whole to facilitate verification, which may not only be construed as dereliction of duty, but sedition as such activity is likely to threaten national security ,” reads the First Information Report (FIR).
Sharma has requested to book Hajela under Sections 120B, 166A, 167, 181, 218, 420 and 466 of the Indian Penal Code along with Section 34.
Annexure B of the FIR copy reads: “It may be mentioned that the list of officers and data entry operators is prepared on the basis of test check only. If there was scope to verify the entire database, the error figure would be much higher. Uploading such a large number of wrong results may not be seen as a common error, but this deliberate act is a threat to national security. Hajela used software that had no provision for quality checks, enabling verification officers and data entry operators to freely upload incorrect family tree matching results for ulterior motives.
‘NRC cannot be used as evidence’
The final NRC of Assam was published in August 2019 with much fanfare. To be a list of legal Indian citizens residing in the state, it was compiled after two draft editions and 19 lakh applicants were excluded.
“Assam Public Works Department was shouting against this corruption. The names of more than 80 lakh illegal Bangladeshis are registered in the NRC. Today this FIR has proved that we were all right. This should have happened a year and a half ago. Hajela should be arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Names of lakhs of illegal Bangladeshis have been registered in the NRC,” said Assam Public Works Department chairman Abhijit Sharma, who is the main petitioner in the case in the Supreme Court against names of illegal Bangladeshis in the voter list.
Sharma previously wrote to Assam’s Foreigners’ Tribunals – quasi-judicial bodies that adjudicate 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 “result” is likely to change. Thus, it cannot be treated as evidence for disposal of cases under judicial or quasi-judicial process,” Abhijeet said.
Hajela transferred in November 2019
The NRC in Assam is a list of Indian citizens residing in the state. A register of citizens has been prepared to identify foreign nationals in the state bordering Bangladesh.
The process of updating the register began in 2013 following a Supreme Court order requiring nearly 33 million people in the state to prove that they were Indian citizens before 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 the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was appointed as the NRC state coordinator by the Supreme Court in 2013.
On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court ordered Hajela to be shifted from Assam to his home state Madhya Pradesh and relieved him of the charge of NRC state coordinator.
Abhijit Sharma had earlier filed an affidavit against Hajela in both the Supreme Court and the Gauhati High Court, highlighting “discrepancies” in the NRC as names of nearly 40 per cent illegal and suspicious persons were inserted in the list.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma had said that his government wants re-verification of 20 per cent of the names in the NRC for the border districts of Assam, while it should be done for the remaining 10 per cent.
The first NRC was compiled in Assam in 1951 on the basis of census reports, but it was not updated. The APW filed a case in the Supreme Court in 2009 praying for the removal of foreigners’ names from the electoral rolls and updation of the NRC. A pilot project for the process began the next year at two locations, but was halted after violence killed four people in one area.
In 2013, the Supreme Court considered the APW petition, directing the Center and the state to initiate the process of updating the NRC. The State Coordinating Office was also established. The updation process of NRC finally started in 2015.
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