SC orders transfer of Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela to M.P.

Prateek Hajela, the officer tasked with supervising the gigantic NRC updation exercise in Assam, must be a relaxed man after the final National Register of Citizens was published on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

A Special Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi ordered the transfer of Assam State National Register of Citizens (NRC) Coordinator Prateek Hajela to Madhya Pradesh over a month after the publication of the final citizenship list on August 31.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman, did not mention in court any reasons for the transfer of Mr. Hajela but said such orders were always made for a reason though.

The judicial order merely said “upon hearing Mr. Prateek Hajela, State Coordinator, the Attorney General and Solicitor General and taking into account the totality of the facts of the case, we order for the inter-cadre transfer of Mr. Hajela to the State of Madhya Pradesh on deputation for the maximum period permissible under the relevant rules/regulations. The notification consequent to the above direction will be issued by the competent authority of the Union of India/State Government forthwith and in any case within seven days from today”.

Lawyers associated with the case speculated that the order for transfer may have been passed by the court in response to an “extraordinary circumstance”.

Over 19 lakh out of 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were excluded from the final NRC list.

The publication of the list, monitored by the Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice Gogoi and conducted by Mr. Hajela, has reportedly led to widespread discontent and sufferings.

The entire exercise tool five years and cost over ₹1,200 crore. Rights groups reportedly said applicants spent accumulatively spent over ₹7,800 crore and 60 lives were lost.

The NRC process was done on a war-footing by the Special Bench, which even rejected the Centre’s plea to pause it for the General elections in 2019.

The court did not accede to separate applications filed by the Centre and Assam, towards the end of the NRC process, for a sample re-verification of the draft list as many names were believed to be wrongly included and excluded.

They had urged the court that a sample re-verification was necessary to quell the “growing perception” that lakhs of illegal immigrants may have infiltrated the list, especially in districts of the State bordering Bangladesh.

“This is too great a matter... People’s lives will be affected. We have to be 100% right. There cannot be a speck of doubt on the entirety of the NRC exercise... The error percentage in the border districts is just over 7 % while in other districts the average is over 12%,” Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had said, urging the court about the necessity of sample re-verification.

Mr. Venugopal had said the low error percentage in the border districts is suspicious, especially when over the years these areas have seen people cross the border illegally and settle down in the State, thus spoiling the opportunity of the natives to make a life for themselves.

But the court had refused the government’s plea, banking on a July 18 report of Mr. Hajela that re-verification has already been done on a district-wise basis during the adjudication of claims.

The Bench scheduled the next hearing for November 26. Chief Justice Gogoi is scheduled to retire on November 17. The CJI said the case come up before a new combination of judges on the next date.

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 9:50:37 PM |

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