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Final NRC not final: Why Prateek Hajela’s presence in Assam was important

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New Delhi, Oct 18: In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court today ordered the transfer of Assam NRC coordinator, Prateek Hajela.

The court directed the government to send Hajela on on inter-cadre deputation to Madhya Pradesh. The court directed the union government and the Assam government to send Hajela to Madhya Pradesh for the maximum period possible.

Final NRC not final: Why Prateek Hajela’s presence in Assam was important

Hajela played a key role in carrying out the orders of the Supreme Court in preparing both the draft and final NRC for Assam. The court ordered that the government notify the transfer within 7 days.

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Attorney General K K Venugopal asked the Bench if there was any reason or cause for sending Hajela on deputation. The Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi said, "can any order be passed without a cause or reason." However the CJI did not mention the cause of reason.

There are however speculations that he may be received a life threat.

The AG then asked about the final NRC. The court said that the matter will come up for further hearing on issues relating to the NRC on November 26. The CJI retires on November 17.

Hajela led a team of 52,000 officials which went through six crore documents of 3.3 crore applicants. This was one of the most complex exercises carried out to validate the Indian Citizenships of the residents of Assam. "Handling more than six crore documents in a span of four years would not have been possible without an extremely sophisticated IT based system. This scale of verification of documents through comparison with the back-end is definitely a very scientific system of verification," Hajela had said.

The transfer comes even as the entire process has not been completed. The appeals are pending and allegations that Declared Foreigners have entered the final NRC. The 19 lakh who have been excluded will have a chance to appeal before the tribunals. The arguments in the tribunal would require the officials to be present.

In such a circumstance the absence of Hajela could make matters messy. Hajela is well versed with the entire process and could have coordinated better with officials representing the government in these appeals. Moreover such matters require extensive documentation and without the leader present, the process could be difficult.

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Officials however say that while it would not be the same without the leader around, he could always be consulted on major issues. However sources say that Hajela himself had submitted a confidential report to the Supreme Court in which he he had sought a transfer. He had said that he has been cleaved along communal and linguistic lines over the issue.

It may be recalled that on September 5, two FIRs were lodged against Assam Coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC), Prateek Hajela, for "discrepancies" in the final updated list.

A lawyer and indigenous Muslim students organisation -- All Assam Goriya-Moriya Yuva Chatra Parishad (AAGMYCP) -- filed separate FIRs against Hajela in Dibrugarh and Guwahati.

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