NRC: SC severely reprimands Assam coordinator, registrar for speaking to media

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NEW DELHI, August 7: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday severely reprimanded National Register of Citizens (NRC) Assam’s state coordinator an its registrar for speaking to the media about the process that will be adopted for finalisation of the NRC draft.
The SC Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman were referring to state coordinator Prateek Hajela and registrar Shailesh.
“Get down to work for finalisation of NRC and never speak to media on this issue without SC’s prior permission…How can officers appointed by the SC talk about something which is to be finalised by us,” the SC fumed.
The apex court said it would have initiated contempt proceedings against Hajela and Shailesh had the task of finalisation of the NRC not been urgently at hand.
The final draft of Assam’s NRC was released last Monday. It said 2.89 crore of 3.29 crore who applied are considered citizens of the country. Meanwhile, Assam’s NRC state coordinator told the top court last Tuesday that of the more than 40 lakh people not in the final draft, as many as 37.59 lakh names have been rejected and 2.48 lakh names have been put on hold.
The process for making claims and objections will begin on August 30 and continue till September 28. Hajela spoke to news agency ANI on SUnday, and said, among other things, that those whose names don’t make it to final NRC will have the right to appeal to the foregn tribunals.
“After we will publish the final NRC list post the completion of Claims and Objections, people will still have the right to appeal in the Foreigners Tribunal if they are not satisfied with the result of the process. 64 Foreign Tribunals are currently working here.
They have already declared few people as foreigners in the past,” said Hajela.
The NRC coordinator further said that no legal action would be taken against people whose name are not in the list.
“People must be wondering what we should do now. Currently, no legal action can be taken against these people. Nobody can take away their rights from them. The Supreme Court has clearly stated this in its order,” he added.
The SC last Tuesday told the Centre no authority will take any coercive action against the over 40 lakh people who have been excluded at present from the list of valid citizens in the final draft of the NRC. The top court also told the Union government to prepare a standard operating procedure to provide a fair mechanism to deal with claims and objections of people who have been excluded.
A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman asked the Centre to place the standard operating procedure to deal with claims of those excluded from NRC before SC on August 16.
The NRC coordinator, Sailesh, while releasing the final draft, emphasised that “this is just a draft, and not the final list. The people who are not included can make claims and objections”.
“Adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear,” said Sailesh.
The SC was referring to state coordinator Prateek Hajela and registrar Shailesh.
The SC also said it would have initiated contempt proceedings against the two had the finalisation of NRC not been urgent “Get down to work for finalisation of NRC and never speak to media on this issue without SC’s prior permission,’ it warned.
The border state of Assam has faced an influx of people from Bangladesh and other parts of the country at various times in the past and ‘illegal immigrants’ have been an emotive and political issue in a state highly divided along religious lines.
Assam is the only state in the country to have a register of its citizens. The reason: the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh, a Muslim country, is a hot button topic, with some groups claiming they are voting illegally and changing the demographic of the state. To get their names included in the register, Assamese had to produce documents that proved their family resided in Assam before March 24, 1971, that is, from a day before the Bangladesh Liberation War began. The war ended December 16, 1971, after which Bangladesh was officially born. (TNN)