Assam’s State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has moved Supreme Court demanding a reverification of the NRC published on August 31, 2019 saying that due to major irregularity many names of ineligible people had made it to the list.
In his intervention application, he also prays for the deletion of ineligible voters from the voters list and seeks updation of the 1951 NRC. The application states that there was absence of backend verification of electoral rolls and the process of Office and Field Verifications being used to check applications was unable to detect “Manipulated or manufactured secondary documents”. Here are the key allegations of discrepancies as stated in the application.
Eligible people excluded
The application also states that sample checks have revealed that out of the over 40 lakh people excluded from the draft NRC of 2018, over 3 lakh people did not apply for the claims and objections process. It was discovered that 50,695 of these people including 7,700 Original Inhabitants (OI) and 42,925 people from other states were eligible for inclusion.
Misuse of Original Inhabitant window
On the subject of OI the application further states that many people have misused the provision and therefore have been mistakenly included in the NRC. It further said that as many as 17,196 persons were included in the NRC even though the backend verification result of their documents was negative, because officers allowed them a chance to reverify their documents.
Allegations against Wipro
Allegations were also made against Wipro which was the System Integrator responsible for maintaining the NRC database. It said that till September 13 2019 Wipro was asked to add or delete names in the database by email, something that was illegal. The application gives an example of the discrepancy saying that while on August 31, 2019 the number of people excluded from the list was 19,06,657, it changed to 19,22,851 on September 14 2019!
Allegations against previous NRC Coordinator
Hitesh Dev Sarma took over from Prateek Hajela as NRC State Coordinator amidst the controversy that erupted shortly after the publication of the final NRC. He has now alleged that not only did Hajela not hand over the password of the official email ID, his computer was found to have been re-formatted and all previous data deleted.
Delay in issuing Rejection Slips
The NRC State Coordinator also submitted that “issues of substantive importance” had also come up during the preparation of rejection slips and thus led to delays. Rejection slips basically list the reason for rejection given in speaking orders by Disposing Officers as a part of the Claims and Objections Process. Over 19 lakh people had been excluded from the 2019 NRC and were required to undergo this process.
According to LiveLaw, the NRC State Coordinator’s application makes two prayers:
– Pass appropriate directions for a complete, comprehensive and time-bound reverification of the draft NRC as well as the supplementary list of NRC under the provision of the Clause 4(3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National ldentity Cards) Rules 2003, where major irregularities have been highlighted in the body of the instant application herein above.
– Pass appropriate directions that the re-verification be done under the supervision of a monitoring committee in the respective districts and such committee may be preferably represented by the respective District Judge, District Magistrate & Superintendent of Police.
Brief background of previous attempt to demand reverification
When Assam Public Works, an NGO that is at the center of the NRC case in the Supreme Court demanded a complete reverification of the list. But the apex court rejected the plea on July 23, 2019 saying, “We have also read and considered the response of Mr. Hazela, the learned Coordinator on this aspect of the matter and specifically, the stand taken by him in his report dated 18.7.2019, which is to the effect that in the course of consideration/adjudication of the claims, re-verification to the extent of 27% has already been done. In fact, in the said report, the learned Coordinator has mentioned district wise figures of such re-verification which has become an integral part of the process of consideration of the claims and objections on account of the procedure adopted. In that view of the matter, we do not consider it necessary to accede to the prayers for a further sample verification as prayed for on behalf of the Union of India and the State of Assam.”
The court had also made specific directions on inclusion of descendants of persons belonging to Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) or Pending Foreigners’ Tribunal (PFT) category and stated that “for those persons born before 3 December 2004, if the parent through whom legacy is drawn is not DV or DF or PFT and is found eligible for inclusion in NRC, but the other parent from whom legacy is not drawn is a DV or DF or PFT, then, such descendants may be included in NRC”.
But the government of Assam remained adamant on reverification and in September 202 made a formal submission before the state assembly demanding 10-20 percent reverification.
On October 13, 2020, Hitesh Dev Sarma issued a directive to Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCR) for deleting ineligible persons from the final draft of NRC. The ineligible persons include persons belonging to categories such as Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) and Pending cases before Foreigners Tribunals (PFT), along with the descendants of persons belonging to these categories.
This led to two contempt petitions against Sarma in the Supreme Court: one by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) which states that the directive issued by him for reverification of final draft of NRC contravenes the court’s previous orders, and another by All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU). Both parties were represented by Kapil Sibal and Fuzail Ahmed Ayyubi. The petitions say that the October 13, 2020 directive for reverification issued by Hitesh Dev Sarma has caused delays in filing of appeals by excluded persons, leaving their identity in the country in much uncertainty. The petitioner states that the unilateral directions amount to wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court’s orders passed on August 7, 2018, July 23, 2019 as well as judgment passed on August 13, 2019. The SC in January 2021 issued notice to Sarma in connection with the contempt petitions.