Guwahati, June 25, 2019:

A retired headmaster’s name has not been included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) due to a clerical error that snatched his voting rights 22 years ago, reports The Hindu. The headmaster’s name will not be included in the final draft NRC which will be published on July 31.

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The teacher (who declined to be named) was first enlisted in 1975 as a voter under the Lakhipur Assembly constituency in southern Assam’s Barak Valley, but the Election Commission of India (ECI) marked him a D-voter, or doubtful voter, in 1997.

It may be mentioned that a case of a person thus tagged a ‘D-Voter’ has to be forwarded by an Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to the Superintendent of Police (Border) concerned for referring to a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) that decides whether or not a person is a genuine Indian citizen.

A resident of Cachar district’s Banskandi, the 64-year-old teacher had in 2014 written to the Border SP to know why he continued to be a D-voter. On March 22 that year, the SP’s office said there was no case against him in this regard.

He then approached the District Election Office (DEO) and the ERO of Lakhipur. On December 8, 2016, the State Election Commission (SEC) constituted an inquiry headed by an executive magistrate.

Magistrate Anurag Phukan wrote that apart from a clerical mistake, no other reason is behind the ‘D’ marking against the name of Deb [the teacher].

Even the ERO of Lakhipur who, in an order on June 1, 2018, said that Deb is a genuine Indian citizen, but added that the steps to remove his name from the D-voter list would depend on when the “e-link is made available”.

Staring at the prospect of being left out of the NRC, the teacher approached the High Court, which directed the ERO of Lakhipur to forward his case to the Cachar SP within 60 days from the date of judgement (March 19). The SP was also asked to refer the matter to the FT within 30 days.

The order by Justice Ujjal Bhuyan stated that the marking of a person as doubtful ‘D’ voter is only a temporary measure and therefore it cannot be continued for an indefinite period. A decision one way or the other has to be taken after marking the concerned person as a ‘D’ voter within a reasonable time. But such decisions can be taken only after obtaining the opinion of the Foreigners’ Tribunal.

He added that the retired teacher is among 71 genuine Indian citizens in the Cachar district marked D-voters because of mistakes by others, and it is unlikely that his name will be included in the final draft NRC published on July 31.

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