The new State Coordinator for the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has gone on leave a week after his appointment.
Hitesh Dev Sarma, who was appointed on November 9 as the replacement for Prateek Hajela, went on a month’s leave from Friday, two days before the retirement of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The Supreme Court under Mr Gogoi has been monitoring the NRC exercise since Prateek Hajela, an IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was appointed its Coordinator in October 2013.
Mr. Hajela relinquished his charge on November 11 after the Supreme Court ordered his transfer to his home State Madhya Pradesh.
Assam government officials said there was an air of uncertainty about Mr Sarma’s return for taking charge of the NRC exercise. His absence has cast a shadow on the process of preparing the “speaking orders” by the NRC authority.
According to the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, the speaking orders are to be issued to 19.06 lakh people excluded from the complete list of citizens published on August 31. Such an order has to cite the reasons behind a person’s expulsion.
A person served a speaking order will get 120 days for filing an appeal at the nearest or designated Foreigners’ Tribunal.
Officials involved with the NRC process said criticisms about his controversial comments on social media and demands from political parties for his ouster could have prompted Mr. Sarma to go on leave.
Lok Sabha member Abdul Khaleque, who represents the Congress from the Barpeta constituency, had in a letter on Wednesday asked Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to revoke Mr. Sarma’s appointment as the new NRC Coordinator.
“Mr. Sarma’s communal and biased views do not indicate the NRC under him would be error-free,” Mr. Khaleque said.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too demand Mr. Sarma’s removal for airing “distasteful” and “hateful” views on social networking sites.