The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, Om Prakash Rawat, has said that the Election Commission (EC) is ready to face three scenarios while drafting the final electoral roll for Assam before the Lok Sabha (LS) elections next year. Rawat was talking in context with the publication of the final draft NRC in Assam on July 30 last. He said that the electoral roll is governed by a different law and exclusion from the final NRC would not mean “automatic removal” from Assam’s voter list.
A report in the The Indian Express quoted Rawat as saying that, “A voter, despite his or her absence from the final NRC, will continue to remain on the State’s (read Assam) electoral roll if he or she can prove to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) that he or she has “sufficient documents” to prove three things. That he or she is a citizen of India, is at least 18 years old on January 2019 and is an ordinary resident in the Assembly constituency he or she wants to enrol.” The final draft NRC was published without the names of over 40 lakh people out of 3.29 crore applicants.
The first scenario, according to Rawat, is that the registered voters in Assam, who are also in the final NRC, will remain unaffected. In the second scenario, voters, who are absent from the final NRC but have managed to get a stay from a tribunal or court, will also continue to remain on the electoral roll.
As for those who are neither in the final NRC nor have challenged their exclusion in court, it will be the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) who will decide their fate based on criteria laid down in the Representation of People Act of 1950.
The report further quoted Rawat as saying, “This is a quasi-judicial decision based on evidence and documents. He (ERO) has to decide whether he (the voter absent from NRC) should remain (in the voters’ list) or not,” said Rawat.
Driving home the point that exclusion from NRC doesn’t make a person’s Indian citizenship doubtful, he said, “Suppose I am employed in Assam but I was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh. How can you say that if I’m not in NRC, I’m not a citizen of India? You can’t say that.”
The EC has directed the Assam Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) to reach out to the State coordinator of NRC, Prateek Hajela, to synchronise the summary revision of Assam’s electoral roll with the process of claims and objections to the draft NRC.
The EC’s electoral roll will be published on January 4, 2019. The final list of the NRC will be published by December this year. The Commission expects a preliminary report from the CEO in a week.
The CEC also said that as far as publishing of EC’s Assam voter list is concerned, it would not be totally in tune with the NRC process – “We are only taking help of their process to the extent that it can help us. If it (finalisation of NRC) goes haywire or continues for the next three years, why should we stop? Our process is different. We are governed by Representation of People’s (RP) Act.”
“We will go by our motto that no voter must be left behind. Any eligible person in Assam must not be left behind from enrolling and voting. Our (State) CEO will work for that,” he added.