Declared foreigner in NRC draft list: ‘Astonished’ court orders remedial measures
Reviewing an “astonishing” petition (wherein a previously declared foreigner’s name was found included in the part draft NRC that was published on 31st December 2017), the Gauhati High Court has observed that there appears to be lack of coordination between the different agencies that are engaged in helping the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela in identifying “illegal foreigners” residing in Assam.
The court, in its order dated 12 April 2018, has asked all the stakeholders of Assam to extend full assistance to the state coordinator in “achieving the objective.”
The chief secretary to the government of Assam has been directed by the court to convene a meeting immediately and discuss the issues which would help the NRC coordinator identify illegal foreigners and how a fruitful coordination between all the stakeholders can be worked out.
The order came in the backdrop of an incident where the name of a person, Ali Ahmed, who had earlier been declared a foreigner by a foreigners’ tribunal, was found to be enlisted in the part draft of the NRC published by the government of Assam on 31st December 2017.
Ahmed was declared an illegal immigrant by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in Sivasagar District in 2011- a verdict which was also later upheld by the Gauhati High Court.
Ali Ahmed filed a review petition in 2018 mentioning that his name appeared from Lahorighat constituency in the part draft of the NRC that was published on 31st December 2017.
The court, in its order dated 28 March 2018 said, “We are astonished to say the least.” The court said it is a matter of serious concern and ordered a copy to be furnished to the standing counsel of the NRC coordinator, Anita Varma, so that necessary steps could be taken.
NRC state coordinator, Prateek Hajela, submitted an affidavit before the court explaining why Ahmed’s name figured in the part draft of the NRC.
After listening to Hajela’s clarification, the court asked the chief secretary to the government of Assam to convene the meeting. The Director General of Police, Assam, Special Director General of Police (Border), Assam, NRC state coordinator, Assam chief electoral officer, principal secretary to the government of Assam, (home and political) and additional chief secretary to the government of Assam, (in-charge home and political department) will discuss the issues and the signed minutes of the meeting shall be placed before the court by 3rd May 2018.
Hajela attriutes lapse to border police
After the Gauhati High Court questioned the National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela on how Ali Ahmed’s name figured in the part draft NRC list published on 31st December 2017, Hajela submitted an affidavit to the court and blamed the border police for the lapse.
The affidavit said, “Had the complete details of the family of Ali Ahmed i.e., father’s name including alias name, preferably present address, permanent address and photographs been provided by the office of DGP (Border), the inadvertent inclusion of the petitioner’s name in the part draft NRC list would not have occurred.”
Standing counsel for NRC coordinator, Anita Verma, talking to G Plus said, “In the list of DFs received from the Additional Director General of Police (Border), it was found that there was no person by the name of Ali Ahmed as DF in the district of Morigaon.” DF stands for declared foreigner.
Lahorighat is under Morigaon district and there has been no error on the part of the NRC authorities during scrutiny of the petitioner’s documents, she added.
According to the affidavit submitted by Hajela, while updating the NRC, the NRC secretariat had searched for all persons named Ali Ahmed in Sivasagar. But when the NRC authorities went through the review petition filed in the court, it said that he was a resident of Lahorighat and he had gone to Sivasagar in 2010 where he was put on the foreigners’ tribunal list.
According to data received from border police, Ali Ahmed is a resident of Sonari and NRC officials searched for him there.
NRC authorities cannot search for that person in any other place because there are thousands of people named Ali Ahmed. Moreover, the person had applied as Ali Ahmed, son of Basir Uddin. However, as per data available with the border police, Ali Ahmed is the son of Abdul Basir. In the court, he wrote his name as Ali Ahmed, son of Abdul Basir.
The NRC officials do not have photographs of the declared foreigners.
Reacting to this, Special Director General of Police (Border), RM Singh said, “In the past there used to be no photographs or fingerprints kept for the records.” He said that only one incident has been noticed which again has been identified.
The Director General of Police (DGP), Mukesh Sahay said, “The police is updating the records and Ahmed’s case is being specially studied so that no such incidents occur in future.”
There are 4,259 declared foreigners (DFs) that the NRC coordinator could identify from among the NRC applicants and their names were prevented from coming into the draft NRC.
There are 63,000 “D” or doubtful voters (DVs) whose names the NRC coordinator prevented from getting into the NRC.
The petitioner’s (Ali Ahmed) application form as submitted to NRC under Lahorighat circle was scrutinised under clause 3(1) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003. The scrutiny comprised verification of various particulars with the official records submitted by the petitioner - electoral roll of 1965, elector photo identity card of 2013; family tree verification was carried out and no mismatches were found.
After all the documents submitted by the petitioner were found in order, his name was included in part draft NRC list.