Congress accuses Assam govt of contempt of court after minister releases NRC data in assembly
Opposition Congress in Assam has claimed that detailed figures of the district wise break-up of the National Register of Citizens draft inclusions and exclusions released by a cabinet minister in state assembly amount to contempt of a Supreme Court order.
Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Debabrata Saikia said on Friday that he would write to the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings.
“On behalf of my party I am going to write to the Supreme Court. The way the minister released detailed data including how many people are excluded, how many are included, how many are on hold in every district is in violation of the Supreme Court order which said no information is to be shared without the leave of the court,” said Debabrata Saikia as he cited a Supreme Court order of September 19, 2018. Saikia questioned how the state government got access to the figures.
In the order, the SC had said confidential reports submitted by NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela should remain in the custody of court owing to sensitive nature of information in those reports which may affect the exercise as it rejected Attorney General KK Venugopal’s request that the reports be provided to the Government of India.
Even as the Court said the request will be examined at a later stage, it directed Hajela not to share any information pertaining to NRC with “executive, legislature of judicial authority of the state without leave of the court.”
The district wise inclusion and exclusion figures were submitted to the court in August 2018 in a sealed cover. Hajela did not respond to multiple queries on the authenticity of the state government data.
On Thursday, during a discussion on NRC during Zero Hour after some ruling party MLAs raised the issue attacking state coordinator Prateek Hajela, senior cabinet minister and government spokesperson Chandra Mohan Patowary gave district wise exclusion and inclusion figures even as he attacked the accuracy of the ongoing NRC exercise citing low exclusion rate in two Muslim majority Indo-Bangladesh border districts of Dhubri and South Salmara.
Patowary rubbished Congress’ claims of contempt of court.”It does not amount to contempt of court. We have utmost respect for the SC. When the MLAs raise a question during Zero Hour, the government has to respond. The figures were not shared by the state coordinator. Once the NRC draft is published it becomes a public document and everyone knows how many people are included and how many are excluded. It is not a secret document,” Patowary said adding the figures were also taken from media reports and provided by several indigenous groups who have demanded re-verification.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and vice president of the BJP, who was in Guwahati on Friday, steered clear when asked what was national leadership view of the state government and state unit’s demands of re-verification of NRC draft and said NRC is not just for Assam. “It should be done in the whole country as it is a country not a dharamshala where anyone can come and stay,” he said at a press conference.
Asked if state government’s statement on figures was contempt of court, he said, “The state government must have done it after thinking it through. I don’t want to comment on that.”
Chouhan also took to Twitter to say that the BJP government will protect religious minorities from neighbouring countries who have sought refuge in India to escape persecution but will evict “intruders”. He also tweeted that the BJP was committed to amend the citizenship law.