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After Foreigners’ Tribunal’s ‘stop interfering’ letter, NRC coordinator says: ‘List not final’

Ever since it was published on August 31, 2019, Assam’s NRC — which left out 19 lakh people — has been in a limbo.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: May 17, 2022 2:06:37 am
HD Sarma took charge as the National Register of Citizens coordinator in Assam after Prateek Hajela. (File Photo)

Days after a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) member wrote to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator in Assam HD Sarma asking him not to interfere with the functioning of the quasi-judicial bodies while insisting the final list had already been published, the latter reiterated his stance that the final NRC is yet to be put out.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sarma said that only the Registrar General of India’s office was authorised to publish the final NRC. “The RGI is yet to notify the final NRC. The FT’s duty is to examine the evidence and then pass their opinion, but sometimes if they find the name on the NRC then they declare the person as ‘Indian’. They should look at it independently (of NRC).”

Ever since it was published on August 31, 2019, Assam’s NRC — which left out 19 lakh people — has been in a limbo. In 2021, state coordinator Sarma submitted an affidavit to the Gauhati High Court, referring to the August 31 list as a ‘supplementary’ list and not the ‘final NRC’ and sought a re-verification. The Assam government, too, has not accepted the list as final, and is currently pushing for a “corrected” NRC.

On April 18, Sarma had written to the FTs requesting them not to rely on the list to adjudicate citizenship cases. He wrote, “It has been observed that while disposing of FT cases, various documents relating to NRC are being called from the District Registrar of Citizens Registration (Deputy Commissioner) and the State Coordinator, NRC. Assam. In this regard, I am to inform you that the Final NRC is yet to be published by the Registrar General of Citizens Registration.” Sarma added that the NRC in itself was erroneous. “It may be noted here that there are large number of errors due to wrong data entry and erroneous process adopted in the NRC updation which has been mentioned in the lA filed by the undersigned before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the matter is yet to be heard by the Apex Court,” the letter read.

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In response, an FT member, who did not want to be identified, wrote back to Sarma on May 10 asking him to withdraw the letter. The claim that the NRC was not final, the FT member said, was in “direct contrast with the available records and orders of the Honourable Supreme Court which may attract contempt of court”. He also cited a 2019 press communique by former state coordinator Prateek Hajela which described the list as the final NRC.

The member stated: “Writing letters directly to the Foreigners Tribunals asking not to rely on certain documents in judicial or quasi judicial proceedings, amounts to interference in administration of justice by tribunals which cannot be entertained. The letter in reference needs to be called back or withdrawn.”

Sarma said that he had not received the letter yet but would respond to it accordingly when he would get it, while adding that Hajela’s statement was “misleading”.

In September 2021, an FT in Karimganj had invoked a person and his family’s included status in the NRC to dispose of a foreigners’ case against him. The FT member had also observed that the 2019 NRC was “nothing but the Final NRC”.

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