The officials in charge of the Assam citizens' list was pulled up by the Supreme Court today for speaking out of turn to the media, holding out hope for the 40 lakh people left out of the list. Questioning "on whose authority" coordinator Prateek Hajela made the statements, the upset court said he and the Registrar should be "sent to jail" and were only being spared because they have a "big job to do".
In an interview with The Indian Express, Mr Hajela had said the people, who had been left out of the list, can submit fresh documents during claims and objections. In the interview, he had also said the NRC exercise was "too premature" and all 40 lakh people cannot be termed "ghuspethiye" (intruders), the report had said.
Mr Hajela's remarks came in the middle of a huge political storm, triggered by the exclusion of 40 lakh people from the draft list. The opposition has claimed that the government was targeting Muslims from various states who had settled in Assam in the guise of zeroing in on illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
BJP chief Amit Shah has accused the opposition of shielding "ghuspethiye" (intruders) in the interest of votebank politics.
"Don't forget you are officials of court," said the top court, which is monitoring the process. "Your job is to prepare the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) and not to go to the Press holding brief for anybody," added Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F Nariman, holding up a copy of the daily.
The court also warned officials against speaking to the media in the future and said they would need its permission to do so. Mr Hajela apologised to the court, saying he went to media after consulting with Registrar General.
Following the opposition furore, the government repeatedly clarified that the Assam list is only a draft. Union minister Rajnath Singh has assured that no Indian citizen will be left out of the list and there was no cause to worry. The Supreme Court too, underscored that no action will be taken on basis of the list without a fair hearing to everyone.