By Nava J Thakuria
Former State coordinator for National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation process in Assam, Prateek Hajela has responded to the Kamrup (metro) district & sessions court, where he failed to appear on 17 November as directed by it, through his counsel.
Terming Hajela as a law abiding citizen, his council also appealed to the court to kindly cancel the permission to the petitioner Luit Kumar Barman to publish newspaper advertisements as the retired IAS officer has already come to know about the summon from various social media posts. The counsel also appealed to the court to allow Hajela to file an affidavit.
It may be mentioned that Hajela (who had already got voluntary retirement from the service under Assam government), the system integrator (Wipro limited) and a subcontractor Integrated System and Services (ISS) were recently summoned by the district court for their alleged involvement with a financial scam to the tune of over 155 crores during the NRC Assam updation process (May 2014 to October 2019). The court also permitted complainant Barman to bring the matter to Hajela’s notice through newspaper-advertisements.
Wipro, the Indian IT company of international repute had submitted an affidavit through its representatives in the court. However, the ISS (represented by proprietor Utpal Hazarika) was not served summon duly and the court directed the petitioner to take necessary steps.
Both Wipro and ISS face serious allegations of tempering software in the process to allow thousands of illegal Bangladeshi nationals to apply for Indian citizenship. The court fixed 6 February 2024 for the next hearing for all three parties.
Barman filed the petition following the report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the year ending on 31 March 2020, where it pointed out irregularities on the process and even recommended penal actions against Hajela and Wipro.
He lodged a complaint at Paltan Bazar police station on 19 October 2022 against Hajela, Wipro and ISS for their suspected roles in money laundering. But his case was not registered and then Barman approached the court of Kamrup (metro) chief judicial magistrate. Even the CJM court also refused to entertain his appeal. Then Barman went to Kamrup (metro) sessions court.
Amidst the debate of NRC scam, the social media users named and shamed three Guwahati-based television scribes as beneficiaries of it. Those scribes are suspected to be involved in supplying the DEOs to ISS and subsequently benefited themselves from the illegal means.
People of Assam still remember how they lavishly praised Hajela as an outstanding officer and pronounced the NRC draft as the final one, even though it’s yet to be endorsed by the Registrar General of India. Every social media user argued that the DEOs must be financially compensated under the laws. Expressing concern over the development, Journalists’ Forum Assam urged the local news channel managements to clarify that no journalist of their organisations was involved with the scam, so that the audience do not perceive the entire media fraternity as corrupt.