Assam NGO

Kamrup, May 11: A defamation case has been filed against former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, by a social worker and office bearer of an Assam-based NGO, who claimed that the latter’s autobiography contained offensive content related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) updating exercise.

The petitioner, Abhijeet Sharma, has filed the Rs 1 crore suit against Gogoi in the Kamrup (Metro) district and civil judge court in Guwahati. Sharma, the president of the NGO Assam Public Works, has been vocal on various matters related to the NRC exercise in the state.

Sharma had earlier filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for the updation of the 1951 NRC in Assam, and during the pendency of that case, the NRC exercise began in Assam in 2015 under the monitoring of the apex court.

Prateek Hajela was appointed as the state coordinator of the NRC to oversee the entire process and report to the top court of the country. In 2017, Sharma alleged that Hajela was involved in a scam related to the NRC updating exercise. However, a Supreme Court bench then presided over by Ranjan Gogoi, passed a suo moto contempt case against Sharma, and he had to tender an unconditional apology before the court.

Sharma stated that the issue raised by him regarding the misappropriation of funds in the NRC exercise was found to be correct by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and Hajela was relieved from his post and transferred to Madhya Pradesh.

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The Assam government has also filed a case against Hajela for his alleged role in the financial anomalies in updating the NRC. Sharma mentioned in his petition to the court that after retirement, Gogoi wrote some things regarding the removal of Hajela from the post of NRC coordinator and transferring him to Madhya Pradesh which is defamatory in nature.

Gogoi, who is currently a Rajya Sabha member, wrote in his autobiography that “At the local level, personal attacks on the SCNR (Hajela) and veiled attacks on the judges, particularly me, by local politicians and specifically by Abhijit Sharma, the president of Assam Public Works, left us (the Bench) convinced that orders should be passed to protect Hajela from undue harassment and calculated harm. The Bench passed the order dated 18 October 2019, for his deputation on inter-cadre transfer to Madhya Pradesh, his home state. Subsequent events like the filing of FIRs against Hajela and other NRC officials; allegations of corruption and threats to order CBI probes besides enormous misinformation to the media and wide publicity thereof leave me convinced that the Bench was thoroughly justified in passing the rather unusual order for the inter-cadre transfer of Hajela by invoking Article 142 of the Constitution.”

Sharma alleged that Gogoi’s statements were utterly false, baseless, and defamatory in nature. The district judge at the Kamrup (Metro) court heard the matter on Tuesday and issued a notice to Ranjan Gogoi for a response. The case is listed for the next hearing on June 3.