NEW DELHI, June 11 – In a significant development with larger ramifications for infiltration-prone Assam, newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath said a cleaning of the electoral rolls was his highest priority.
“First and foremost, a clean electoral roll and hassle-free registration are among our highest priorities. Every eligible person shall be on the roll and name of every ineligible person shall be removed. There shall be 100 per cent photos on the roll and every voter shall be given an EPIC with correct details. We will engage all outreach methods, voters’ education and technology to achieve these objectives”, said Sampath after joining as CEC on Monday.
The CEC’s statement has significance for Assam, where controversy over the Doubtful (D) voters, continues to rage. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a writ petition filed by Assam Public Works (APW) alleging presence of 40 lakh excess voters in the State, seeking intensive revision of rolls and deletion of names of suspected illegal migrants from the rolls. The Government of India, Assam government and the Election Commission of India are respondents in the petition.
On the other hand, Assam Government had, citing reports of the State Electoral Officer, contested the claim of high increase of voters, clarifying that the rate of increase was approximately 15.94 per cent. However, in absence of the corroborative data, it is difficult to attribute this growth only to influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Assam Government had suggested that the Government of India devise a suitable mechanism before the next elections to resolve the issue of ‘D’ voters so that the genuine Indian citizens are not deprived of their right to franchise for years together. At the present rate, the 36 foreigners’ tribunals would require 10 to 12 years to resolve the issue.
APW has called for a one-time operation by adopting the modality, as designed by the petitioner, so as to regularise all pre-March 25, 1971 Bangladeshis along with lineage, as Indian citizens and to identify the post-March 24, 1971 illegal migrants as foreigners and delete their names from the rolls, as ‘D’ category voters, in substitution of the modality being proposed by the Government purportedly to update the National Register of Citizens 1951.