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Another FIR against Prateek Hajela, this time by Hitesh Dev Sarma

Current Assam NRC Coordinator files FIR against his predecessor alleging conspiracy and cheating among other charges

Sabrangindia 20 May 2022

FIR
Image Courtesy:barakbulletin.com

In a shocking turn of events in the already complicated journey of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the current NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma has filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela.

Readers would recall that the NRC update process was carried out under Hajela, but when the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, it left out 19,06,657 people. But many people including those in the government and several local organisations such as All Assam Students Union (AASU), and other ethno-linguistic organisation leaders were unhappy with the NRC, claiming names of “foreigners” had been included. In October 2020, then Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, had openly rejected the NRC.

But things started taking a particularly ugly turn when Hajela was threatened and had to be transferred out of the state. Sarma succeeded him.

Now, Sarma has filed and FIR against Hajela under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 166 (A) (public servant disobeying law), 167 (Public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 181 (false statement on oath or affirmation to public servant or person authorised to administer an oath or affirmation), 218  (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), 420 (cheating), 466 (forgery) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

A copy of Sarma's complaint to the Superintendent of Police may be read here:

Previous complaints against Hajela

As SabrangIndia has reported previously, in November 2019, Rajib Deka, a member of Assam Public Works (APW), the NGO that filed the very petition in the Supreme Court based on which the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was conducted in Assam, filed an FIR with the anti-corruption branch of the CBI alleging that Hajela had appointed several retired government officials as his advisors paying them high salaries and giving them new vehicles. However, Deka alleges that there is no record of the work done by these people and neither has the expenditure on them been audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

Deka has also alleged that a large number of school teachers had been appointed to help with the NRC process, and though the records show that they were paid a remuneration, actually the teachers have not received any money. He also alleges that about 10,000 laptops that actually have a market value of Rs 22,500 were purchased at an inflated price of Rs 44,500 and that 11,000 electrical generators were also purchased at double the market price.

In February 2020, APEW accused Hajela of data tampering. On February 7, acting on a FIR filed by Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO that is the main petitioner in the NRC case in the Supreme Court, the Assam CID booked Hajela on charges of tampering data in the final list. Then again on February 12, the 50-year-old IAS officer from the Assam-Meghalaya cadre was embroiled in a fresh conspiracy where NRC data went missing from the website.

It appears the data went missing from the NRC website first on December 15 as the contract for hosting had not been renewed with Wipro, that agreed to continue hosting the data till end of January due to goodwill even after the expiry of its contract.

Then, in June 2021, APW again filed a complaint with the Assam Police alleging that former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela and his associates had manipulated data at stages as early as while conducting Family Tree Verification.

APW’s campaign against Hajela

APW has been at the forefront of the alleged “witch-hunt” against Hajela. Earlier, in December 2019, APW president Abhijeet Sharma and general secretary Dhrubajyoti Talukdar, had met with Hitesh Dev Sharma who took over as the NRC state coordinator after Prateek Hajela was shunted out amidst security concerns. APW submitted a nine-page memorandum demanding that a probe be conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They also asked for an independent audit of the NRC software, application and IT infrastructure.

There were also allegations that Data Entry Operators of the same immigrant community were employed in NRC Seva Kendras (NSK) in immigrant dominated areas, and that this led to improper verification of family tree and legacy data.

The APW memorandum named five software development companies; WIPRO, BOHNIMAN SYSTEM Pvt. Ltd., Maddoc Technologies, Trans Technologies Solutions, and RJ-45 Technologies, involved in the NRC process, and accused them of committing a corruption of Rs. 100 crores. 

Previous corruption charges have been about artificially inflating prices of equipment purchased, as well as lack of accountability in paying salaries and giving perks to special advisors hired by Hajela. It is no secret that the BJP was upset that a large number of Muslims had made it into the final list.

Sarma’s reverification bid and SC contempt petition

Interestingly, in January 2021, Supreme Court issued notice to Hitesh Dev Sarma, in a contempt application filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) which states that the directive issued by him for reverification of final draft of NRC contravenes the court’s previous orders. A similar contempt petition had also been moved by the All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU).

The NRC which was published in August 2019, was finalised under close monitoring and scrutiny of the Supreme Court. The final NRC had excluded over 1.9 million people in Assam, most of them hailing from deeply impoverished and marginalised communities. 

An October 13, 2020 directive for reverification issued by Hitesh Dev Sarma had allegedly caused delays in filing of appeals by excluded persons, leaving their identity in the country in much uncertainty. Two contempt petitions were filed by JUH and AAMSU against this direction issued by Sarma to Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCR) for deleting ineligible persons from the final draft of NRC. The ineligible persons include persons belonging to categories such as Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) and Pending cases before Foreigners Tribunals (PFT), along with the descendants of persons belonging to these categories. The petitioner stated that the unilateral directions amount to wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court’s orders passed on August 7, 2018, July 23, 2019 as well as judgment passed on August 13, 2019.

The petition stated that since the apex court has repeatedly stressed the urgency of completing and finalising the preparation of the NRC, the directive for reverification and revisiting of completed stages in the process directly violates the apex court’s orders. The petitioner contends that on July 23, 2019, the court had specifically rejected the need for further reverification and directed the publication of final NRC. 

Sarma had also implied, in an affidavit dated December 3, 2020, submitted to the Gauhati High Court that the NRC published in August 2019 was a supplementary list and not the “final NRC”. According to him, at least the NRC contained names of at least 4,700 “ineligible” people.

Related:

Centre to support Assam government’s affidavit to conduct NRC reverification?
Assam gov’t adamant on NRC reverification
Was the entire Assam NRC process in vain?
Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC
NRC Reverification: SC responds to contempt petition, issues notice to Hitesh Dev Sarma
Hajela in hot water again!
Assam NRC to be scrapped? What does this mean?
FIR filed against NRC ex-coordinator on graft charges
Good bye! Prateek Hajela leaves Assam riding a wave of strong emotions
Once debarred from NRC, Hitesh Dev Sharma in charge of new NRC Coordinator
Prateek Hajela shunted out of Assam, what happens next on the NRC front?
Assam Chief Minister openly rejects NRC

Another FIR against Prateek Hajela, this time by Hitesh Dev Sarma

Current Assam NRC Coordinator files FIR against his predecessor alleging conspiracy and cheating among other charges

FIR
Image Courtesy:barakbulletin.com

In a shocking turn of events in the already complicated journey of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the current NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma has filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela.

Readers would recall that the NRC update process was carried out under Hajela, but when the final NRC was published on August 31, 2019, it left out 19,06,657 people. But many people including those in the government and several local organisations such as All Assam Students Union (AASU), and other ethno-linguistic organisation leaders were unhappy with the NRC, claiming names of “foreigners” had been included. In October 2020, then Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, had openly rejected the NRC.

But things started taking a particularly ugly turn when Hajela was threatened and had to be transferred out of the state. Sarma succeeded him.

Now, Sarma has filed and FIR against Hajela under sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 166 (A) (public servant disobeying law), 167 (Public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 181 (false statement on oath or affirmation to public servant or person authorised to administer an oath or affirmation), 218  (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save person from punishment or property from forfeiture), 420 (cheating), 466 (forgery) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

A copy of Sarma's complaint to the Superintendent of Police may be read here:

Previous complaints against Hajela

As SabrangIndia has reported previously, in November 2019, Rajib Deka, a member of Assam Public Works (APW), the NGO that filed the very petition in the Supreme Court based on which the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was conducted in Assam, filed an FIR with the anti-corruption branch of the CBI alleging that Hajela had appointed several retired government officials as his advisors paying them high salaries and giving them new vehicles. However, Deka alleges that there is no record of the work done by these people and neither has the expenditure on them been audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

Deka has also alleged that a large number of school teachers had been appointed to help with the NRC process, and though the records show that they were paid a remuneration, actually the teachers have not received any money. He also alleges that about 10,000 laptops that actually have a market value of Rs 22,500 were purchased at an inflated price of Rs 44,500 and that 11,000 electrical generators were also purchased at double the market price.

In February 2020, APEW accused Hajela of data tampering. On February 7, acting on a FIR filed by Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO that is the main petitioner in the NRC case in the Supreme Court, the Assam CID booked Hajela on charges of tampering data in the final list. Then again on February 12, the 50-year-old IAS officer from the Assam-Meghalaya cadre was embroiled in a fresh conspiracy where NRC data went missing from the website.

It appears the data went missing from the NRC website first on December 15 as the contract for hosting had not been renewed with Wipro, that agreed to continue hosting the data till end of January due to goodwill even after the expiry of its contract.

Then, in June 2021, APW again filed a complaint with the Assam Police alleging that former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela and his associates had manipulated data at stages as early as while conducting Family Tree Verification.

APW’s campaign against Hajela

APW has been at the forefront of the alleged “witch-hunt” against Hajela. Earlier, in December 2019, APW president Abhijeet Sharma and general secretary Dhrubajyoti Talukdar, had met with Hitesh Dev Sharma who took over as the NRC state coordinator after Prateek Hajela was shunted out amidst security concerns. APW submitted a nine-page memorandum demanding that a probe be conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They also asked for an independent audit of the NRC software, application and IT infrastructure.

There were also allegations that Data Entry Operators of the same immigrant community were employed in NRC Seva Kendras (NSK) in immigrant dominated areas, and that this led to improper verification of family tree and legacy data.

The APW memorandum named five software development companies; WIPRO, BOHNIMAN SYSTEM Pvt. Ltd., Maddoc Technologies, Trans Technologies Solutions, and RJ-45 Technologies, involved in the NRC process, and accused them of committing a corruption of Rs. 100 crores. 

Previous corruption charges have been about artificially inflating prices of equipment purchased, as well as lack of accountability in paying salaries and giving perks to special advisors hired by Hajela. It is no secret that the BJP was upset that a large number of Muslims had made it into the final list.

Sarma’s reverification bid and SC contempt petition

Interestingly, in January 2021, Supreme Court issued notice to Hitesh Dev Sarma, in a contempt application filed by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) which states that the directive issued by him for reverification of final draft of NRC contravenes the court’s previous orders. A similar contempt petition had also been moved by the All Assam Minorities Students Union (AAMSU).

The NRC which was published in August 2019, was finalised under close monitoring and scrutiny of the Supreme Court. The final NRC had excluded over 1.9 million people in Assam, most of them hailing from deeply impoverished and marginalised communities. 

An October 13, 2020 directive for reverification issued by Hitesh Dev Sarma had allegedly caused delays in filing of appeals by excluded persons, leaving their identity in the country in much uncertainty. Two contempt petitions were filed by JUH and AAMSU against this direction issued by Sarma to Deputy Commissioners and District Registrars of Citizen Registration (DRCR) for deleting ineligible persons from the final draft of NRC. The ineligible persons include persons belonging to categories such as Declared Foreigner (DF), Doubtful Voter (DV) and Pending cases before Foreigners Tribunals (PFT), along with the descendants of persons belonging to these categories. The petitioner stated that the unilateral directions amount to wilful disobedience of the Supreme Court’s orders passed on August 7, 2018, July 23, 2019 as well as judgment passed on August 13, 2019.

The petition stated that since the apex court has repeatedly stressed the urgency of completing and finalising the preparation of the NRC, the directive for reverification and revisiting of completed stages in the process directly violates the apex court’s orders. The petitioner contends that on July 23, 2019, the court had specifically rejected the need for further reverification and directed the publication of final NRC. 

Sarma had also implied, in an affidavit dated December 3, 2020, submitted to the Gauhati High Court that the NRC published in August 2019 was a supplementary list and not the “final NRC”. According to him, at least the NRC contained names of at least 4,700 “ineligible” people.

Related:

Centre to support Assam government’s affidavit to conduct NRC reverification?
Assam gov’t adamant on NRC reverification
Was the entire Assam NRC process in vain?
Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC
NRC Reverification: SC responds to contempt petition, issues notice to Hitesh Dev Sarma
Hajela in hot water again!
Assam NRC to be scrapped? What does this mean?
FIR filed against NRC ex-coordinator on graft charges
Good bye! Prateek Hajela leaves Assam riding a wave of strong emotions
Once debarred from NRC, Hitesh Dev Sharma in charge of new NRC Coordinator
Prateek Hajela shunted out of Assam, what happens next on the NRC front?
Assam Chief Minister openly rejects NRC

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