Civil servant Hitesh Dev Sarma was on Saturday appointed the next coordinator of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, reported The Indian Express. Sarma is expected to assume charge on Monday.
Sarma will replace Prateek Hajela. The Supreme Court had on October 18 asked the Centre to transfer Hajela to Madhya Pradesh within seven days. The court had not specified the reason for the transfer though. The Centre on October 24 filed a plea before the Supreme Court asking for more time to transfer Hajela out of the state.
Sarma is a 1986-batch Assam civil servant. Currently, he is serving as the secretary to the urban development and finance departments of the Assam government. He had earlier worked with the NRC directorate in 2013, according to NDTV.
The final NRC, published on August 31, had excluded 1.9 million people. Sarma’s immediate task would be to send out letters to those left out of the final NRC with reasons for their non-inclusion, and process fresh application through the Foreigners Tribunal. The process is likely to start this month, reported the Hindustan Times.
People excluded from the NRC list have 120 days to appeal before the Foreigners Tribunal. If they are not satisfied with the verdict, they have the option of moving the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Hajela was the Supreme Court-mandated coordinator of NRC, and was involved in the task since September 2013. He is a native of Madhya Pradesh and is a 1995-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre.
Since the publication of the NRC, members of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have criticised the register as well as Hajela. In September, senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi wrote to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, complaining that Hajela had not discharged his duty efficiently. This came days after two cases were filed against Hajela for allegedly excluding bonafide Indians from the updated citizens’ list deliberately.
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