Centre feared rigging in NRC data, sought re-verification

Guwahati: People queue up outside a NRC Seva Kendra in Nagaon to check their name on the first complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published

New Delhi, After the draft NRC was published in July last year and June this year, the Centre and Assam government had brought before the Supreme Court incidents indicative of rigging in its data collection and sought re-verification of the data.

The Centre informed the top court that field level officers had been arrested for taking bribes to include names in the NRC list. Fearing large-scale corruption in the exercise aimed at identifying illegal immigrants for deportation, the Centre had urged the apex court to extend the deadline for publishing the final list of NRC and proposed re-verification of the data collected.

Appearing for the Centre and Assam government in the top court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: “Apparently, there are more wrong inclusions on the list due to corrupt practices by lower level officers. Therefore, we need re-verification. We have experienced this wrongful inclusion in districts sharing the border with Bangladesh.”

The Assam government also urged the apex court to allow it to conduct re-verification of the names included in the final draft for certain districts. “This process should take place at away from where the NRC verification has taken place,” the state government said.

The government through an affidavit told the apex court that the re-verification of data should be done by senior officials, who were not involved in the initial process, to ensure that it is fair and independent. It said it wanted to engage Class I officers with extensive “knowledge and experience” for the re-verification process.

The Centre argued that re-verification of data will allay the fears of citizens who had been unjustly excluded from the list, and also identify immigrants who got included on it through unfair means.

However, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi turned down the request citing NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela’s report, which claimed that nearly 80 lakh names had already been verified. “In such a scenario, why is there a need for a sample re-verification? If we are satisfied that verification has been done properly, then there is no need for a sample re-verification, don’t you think?” the CJI asked to the Solicitor General.

Around 41 lakh people had been excluded from the draft NRC lists published in July 2018 and June this year. Around 36 lakh people filed claims against their exclusion, while objections were filed against two lakh inclusions. Hearings on these claims and objections were held at various NRC centres.