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India’s top court pulls up Assam NRC coordinator, register over press statements

  • Published at 08:26 pm August 8th, 2018
INDIA-POLITICS-ASSAM
Villagers wait outside the National Register of Citizens (NRC) centre to get their documents verified by government officials, at Mayong Village in Morigaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, India July 8, 2018 Reuters

The court had directed the central government to formulate a fair standard operating procedure to deal with claims and objections and submit it by August 16 for its approval

India’s Supreme Court rebuked Registrar General of India Shailesh and Assam National Register of Citizens coordinator Prateek Hajela for speaking to the media about the draft document without informing the top court first, PTI reported.

“We should hold both of you in contempt and send you to jail,” Justice Ranjan Gogoi said while criticizing the two officials for discussing with the press matters related to adjudication of the claims and objections to inclusions and exclusions in the draft.

“Do not forget, you are the officers of the court,” the court said. “Your job is to comply with our directions. How can you go to press like this?”

On July 31, the Supreme Court had asked India’s central government to not take any coercive action against the people whose names are excluded from the final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). It came a day after the Assam state government published the final draft of the NRC. Around 4 million people did not find mention in the list out of 32 million applicants.

The court had directed the central government to formulate a fair standard operating procedure to deal with claims and objections and submit it by August 16 for its approval.

On Tuesday, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and RF Nariman said it had not taken “sterner action” against the officials as it did not want to hinder the process of the publication of the final document. Hajela apologized to the court and said that the Registrar General of India and he had decided to address any public apprehensions about the draft.

The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from so-called “illegal migrants” who might be living in the state. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner.

Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 32 million people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.