NRC coordinator moves SC for list re-verification

In his application, Sarma claimed several thousand ineligible people were included in the draft NRC while other genuine applicants were left out.
The Supreme Court is yet to fix a date of hearing for this plea.(AP File Photo)
The Supreme Court is yet to fix a date of hearing for this plea.(AP File Photo)
Updated on May 14, 2021 12:26 AM IST
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ByHT Correspondents, New Delhi, Guwahati

Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma has approached the Supreme Court seeking a “comprehensive and time-bound” re-verification of the draft citizenship list released two years ago, citing major irregularities in the controversial process that excluded 1.9 million people.

In his application, Sarma claimed several thousand ineligible people were included in the draft NRC while other genuine applicants were left out. The plea came days after Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said his government will push for partial re-verification of the citizens list.

“Several serious, fundamental and substantial errors have crept into the whole process of updating the NRC in Assam. This has vitiated the entire exercise and the present draft and the supplementary list for inclusion & exclusion of NRC that has been published is not free from errors,” stated Sarma’s plea.

The Supreme Court is yet to fix a date of hearing for this plea.

The NRC was first conducted in 1951 and the process of updating it began after decades of agitation in 2015, monitored by the apex court. Citizens were required to show that they or their ancestors were present in Assam before March 24, 1971, the day war broke out in neighbouring Bangladesh and sent droves of refugees into Assam. The cut-off date was related to the Assam Accord of 1985 that marked the end of a six-year-long violent movement against illegal immigrants. The draft NRC published in July 2018 excluded roughly four million people and the final list in August 2019 left out around 1.9 million people.

Almost immediately, controversy broke out as rights activists alleged many poor and marginalised people were discriminated against due to lack of citizenship papers, spelling mistakes or difficulty in understanding the complex process. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also rejected the list, saying it excluded genuine citizens.

In his plea, Sarma said office and field verification of applications could not detect manipulated or manufactured secondary documents, and were also unable to detect if the names were entered fraudulently in the electoral roll. He said the preparation of a correct and error-free NRC was integral to national security and the process was being closely monitored by the top court itself, therefore it was necessary to apprise the court of anomalies that occurred during the NRC updation process and seek remedial action.

The application sought re-verification under the supervision of a monitoring committee, preferably represented by district judge, district magistrate and superintendent of police.

Sarma said out of the 393,975 people who didn’t contest their exclusion in the July 2018 draft NRC, about 50,695 were later found to be eligible for inclusion. “This figure may increase if detail re-verification is done. For a flawless and complete NRC, names of these persons have to be included in the final NRC, failing which the final NRC will lose its acceptability,” the plea added.

Previous applications in the top court for re-verification of NRC haven’t been successful.

In July 2019, the top court rejected the Centre and the Assam government’s prayer for a sample re-verification. The Centre had asked the apex court to allow verification of 20% random samples of citizens. But the court referred to the then state coordinator’s report to say that a re-verification of 27% had already been done.

On Monday, the CM said that the state government would seek 20% re-verification of the list in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% re-verification in other districts.


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Tuesday, January 18, 2022