The officials of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam are likely to ask the centre to launch an independent probe into suspected cases of “wilful deletion” of data and important emails, people with direct knowledge of the matter have told NDTV.
The emails that were suspected to have been deleted between November and December last year when state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela was transferred and Hitesh Dev Sarma was appointed in his place, the sources said, asking not to be identified.
The Assam NRC directorate may have to file a petition with the Supreme Court since the citizens’ list exercise to weed out illegal immigrants is being monitored by the top court, the sources said. The request for the probe is likely to be sent to the centre through the Registrar General of India, the sources said.
The NRC authorities also suspect that a senior official involved in updating the citizens’ list, who soon resigned after Mr Hajela was moved out, withheld passwords to access official email accounts. The NRC officials on Wednesday filed a police complaint against former NRC project manager Ajupi Baruah on charges of not sharing the passwords.
The police complaint came after media reports said the final Assam NRC data had disappeared from its official website.
A non-profit, Assam Public Works, has also filed a separate complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Assam Police against Mr Hajela for alleged cybercrime by tampering with “valuable NRC records”.
A top official of the Assam NRC said they are unable to check data security since the passwords of the key emails were not shared with them.
“I to inform you that Ajupi Baruah, resident of Guwahati worked as project manager, NRC, resigned and handed over the charge on 11th November 2019 but did not share the password of the official email IDs…” NRC executive director Chandana Mahanta said in a complaint to the police in Guwahati.
“As you know that the NRC updation project is very sensitive in nature and is being done under the direct supervision of Supreme Court of India, the emails mentioned above contain very sensitive correspondences/information of NRC. Unauthorized possession of the password by her is violation of the section 5 of the official secrets Act, 1923 as it related to national security and integrity,” Mr Mahanta said in the complaint.
The contract with tech firm Wipro for system integration and IT services was not renewed by the Assam NRC authorities after it ended in October last year, the sources said.
While the Home Ministry has clarified that the NRC data is safe, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters that the data is not available online due to “payment related issues” between Wipro and the NRC authorities. Other sources in the NRC office said Wipro has run a bill of Rs 70 crore.
The Assam government is taking legal opinion to see if a case can be filed against Mr Hajela, a senior official in the state government told NDTV, asking not to be identified.
The BJP government in Assam has been claiming that the final NRC list is “faulty” and needs to be “re-verified”.