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Supreme Court Directs NRC officials to Focus on Error-Free List

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday told Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) Coordinator Prateek Hajela to ensure an error-free final NRC, instead of giving interviews to the media.

The bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman warned Hajela, and Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India (RGCC) Sailesh to be ‘cautious in future’.

Hajela had told the media that any valid document would be accepted as proof of citizenship during the hearing on complaints and objections by those left out in the draft NRC.

Taking suo motu cognizance of Hajela’s interview to a national daily, Justice Gogoi said: “Where’s the necessity, scope and authority in you to make such a statement? Your job is to carry on with the draft and prepare the final NRC.”

Displeased over the action of Hajela, Justice Nariman said: “Speaking for myself, I was appalled by your action… And don’t forget you are an officer of the court.”

Telling Hajela that ‘whatever you say, reflects on us’, the bench asked: “Should we send you both (including RGCC) to jail for contempt?”
The court told Hajela that he was first an officer of the court and should not have spoken to the media about the NRC.

“It is most unfortunate on your part as well as the RGCC. Your job is to prepare the final NRC. Your job is not to go to press holding brief for somebody,” the bench said.

The court reminded RGCC Sailesh that on an earlier occasion, too, he was warned by the court on his actions vis-a-vis preparation of the NRC.
“And you, we had warned you before,” Justice Gogoi told Sailesh.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Gogoi, holding the copy of the newspaper in which Hajela had given the interview about ongoing exercise for preparing final NRC for Assam, asked him “what is this?”

“Are you in any manner concerned with the claims and objections? What is this question of new documents?” Justice Gogoi asked Hajela telling him that his job was only to carry on with the draft NRC and prepare final citizens register.

Justice Gogoi also read out the order passed by the court in its last hearing on July 31. In its last order, the court had said: “… what has been published is only the Complete Draft NRC which naturally being a draft cannot be the basis of any action by any authority.”

The court had also recorded the statement of Attorney General KK Venugopal that the Central Government was in the process of ‘preparing modalities in the form of standard operating procedures’ to deal with claims and objections through a fair process.

Having hauled up Hajela and RGCC Sailesh for exceeding their brief and speaking to the media, the court said that next hearing on the matter would take place on August 16 when the court would consider the standard operating procedures being prepared by the Centre for dealing with claims and objections to the draft NRC.

In pursuance to July 2 top court’s direction, the draft NRC was published on July 30. It will also pass further orders with regard to the time schedule and different steps that would be undertaken for preparing the final NRC. (IANS)